NATO renews membership vow for Ukraine, promises arms and aid

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO on Tuesday doubled its commitment to one day include Ukraine, a commitment that some officials and analysts say helped spark the Russian invasion this year. The world’s largest security alliance has also pledged to send more aid to Ukrainian forces stuck in battle with Russian troops.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with NATO foreign ministers in Romania to mobilize support for Ukraine as Russia bombs energy infrastructure ahead of the freezing winter. Russia cannot stop alliance expansion, NATO leaders have said.

“NATO’s door is open,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before chairing the meeting in the capital, Bucharest.

He pointed out that North Macedonia and Montenegro had recently joined NATO, and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “soon will make Finland and Sweden NATO members”. The Nordic neighbors applied for membership in April, fearing Russia would target them next.

“Russia has no veto power” over countries joining, Stoltenberg said. “We also stick to Ukraine’s membership.”

When they met in Bucharest in 2008, NATO leaders declared that Ukraine and Georgia would one day join the alliance.

Some officials and analysts believe the move – pressed to NATO allies by former US President George W. Bush – was partly responsible for the war Russia launched against Ukraine in February. Stoltenberg said NATO’s expansion would not be hampered.

“President Putin cannot prevent sovereign nations from making their own sovereign decisions that do not pose a threat to Russia,” the former Norwegian prime minister said. “I think what he’s afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that’s the main challenge for him.”

Even so, Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon. With the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists holding parts of the south and east, it is unclear what Ukraine’s borders would look like.

Many of NATO’s 30 allies believe the focus should now be solely on defeating Russia, and Stoltenberg stressed that any attempt to push ahead with membership could divide them.

“We are in the midst of a war and therefore we must not do anything that could undermine the unity of the allies to provide military, humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine, because we must prevent President Putin from winning,” he said. he declares.

Beyond Ukraine’s immediate needs, NATO wants to see how it can help the country in the longer term, upgrading its Soviet-era equipment to modern alliance standards and providing more military training.

Slovak Foreign Minister Rastislav Kacer says allies must help Ukraine so that “the transition to full membership is very easy and smooth” once NATO and Kyiv are ready for accession talks.

In a statement, the ministers pledged to help Ukraine rebuild once the war is over, saying “we will continue to strengthen our partnership with Ukraine as it advances its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

Ukraine, for its part, has called for more arms supplies to defend itself, and quickly.

“Faster, faster and faster,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “We appreciate what has been done, but the war continues.”

“In a nutshell,” he said, “patriots and transformers are what Ukraine needs most.” Stoltenberg confirmed that deliveries of these sophisticated missile systems are under consideration.

Some ministers promised military support to Ukraine, others financial and non-lethal aid.

Slovakia said it was providing 30 armored personnel carriers and more artillery.

The United States announced $53 million to buy electrical parts for Ukraine’s crumbling power grid. The network has been battered across the country since early October by targeted Russian strikes, in what US officials call a Russian campaign to weaponize the coming winter cold.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu went further than most, calling on his NATO partners to pledge 1% of their GDP to Ukraine in military support, saying it would make “a strategic difference “.

Most NATO allies, however, struggle to spend 2% of GDP on their own defense budgets.

The foreign ministers of NATO candidates Finland and Sweden join the talks. NATO is eager to add the two Nordic countries to the defensive forces aligned against Russia. Turkey and Hungary are the reluctant to ratify their demands. The other 28 member nations have already done so.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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