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Vilnius summit brings Ukraine closer to NATO, but direct invitation withheld

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 11, 2023 7:26 PM 2 min read
Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), during a news conference on the opening day of the annual NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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NATO allies adopted a three-part support package for Ukraine, which includes removing the requirement to undergo the Membership Action Plan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during the Vilnius summit on July 11.

Ukraine will receive an invitation to join NATO when "the allies agree, and conditions are met," Stoltenberg said at the summit's press conference without providing further details.

"This is a strong package for Ukraine. And a clear path towards its membership in NATO," he added, reaffirming that Ukraine "will become a member of NATO."

Under the package, NATO will provide Ukraine with a multi-year assistance program to enable the country's transition from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and standards, develop its security and defense sector, and cover Ukraine's critical needs, such as fuel, demining equipment, and medical supplies.

Allies are also establishing the NATO-Ukraine Council, "a forum for crisis consultations and decision-making, where we will meet as equals," as described by Stoltenberg.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived in the Lithuanian capital on July 11, did not attend the leaders' meeting on July 11 but is scheduled to join the inaugural meeting of the new Council the next day. Zelensky will also hold a bilateral meeting with Stoltenberg, followed by a joint press conference.

While en route to Vilnius, Zelensky said that he had "received signals that certain wording is being discussed without Ukraine," noting that the "wording is about the invitation to become NATO member, not about Ukraine's membership."

"It's unprecedented and absurd when a time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine's membership. While at the same time vague wording about 'conditions' is added even for inviting Ukraine," the president tweeted.

Ukraine applied for a fast-track accession to NATO in September 2022, half a year after Russia started the full-scale invasion.

While acknowledging the country cannot enter the alliance before the war's end, Kyiv has repeatedly called for an invitation or a "clear signal" on the membership from the allies at the Vilnius summit.

Editorial: A smart NATO would seek Ukraine’s accession
Editor’s note: Editorials are articles that present the opinion of the editorial team of the Kyiv Independent. When one looks at the history of the West supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia, one pattern shines through: missed opportunities. The whole war is ripe with opportunity for NATO…
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