Ukraine’s bid to join NATO will likely be put on hold until the war with Russia has concluded.
President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Turkey this week to drum up support for Ukraine to join NATO ahead of a military summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, that begins Tuesday.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “there is no doubt that Ukraine deserves membership of NATO,” but told Zelensky that peace talks should resume with Russia.
Zelensky was also able to garner support from some western countries ahead of the summit, but they did not go so far as to support Ukraine’s rapid accession to the alliance.
Zelensky was given a pledge of support in Prague for Ukraine to join NATO “as soon as the war is over,” and in Sofia, Bulgaria, he received assurances that Ukraine would be able to join the alliance “as soon as conditions allow,” Al Jazeera reported.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also reiterated his view that Ukraine would become a member, but the timeline remains unclear.
The United States doused any hope that Ukraine could quickly join NATO, saying that this week’s military summit would not end with a NATO invitation.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the summit “will be an important moment on that pathway towards membership,” but Ukraine still has “further steps it needs to take before membership in NATO.”
Germany has insisted that Ukraine must meet certain conditions before it joins the alliance, including that the military be under civilian and democratic control.
Zelenksy himself has also acknowledged that Ukraine will not be joining NATO anytime soon because the move would push the alliance into a direct fight with Russia, which has been staunchly against Ukraine joining NATO for decades.
In 2008, Vladamir Putin warned U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns, who is now director of the CIA, that, “No Russian leader could stand idly by in the face of steps toward NATO membership for Ukraine,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
“That would be a hostile act toward Russia,” Putin added.
Putin has maintained the message for years warned that there would be a “serious danger” of NATO getting pulled into the Ukraine war if the alliance continued aiding Ukraine.