NATO's eastern wing expects improved ties with Ukraine by the Vilnius summit
The countries of NATO's eastern wing expect the alliance's summit in Vilnius in July to put Ukraine on a clearer path to membership after the war with Russia ends, it was announced last night at the summit of the eastern members in Bratislava, Hina reported.
NATO allies are arguing over the speed of Ukraine's possible accession to NATO, and Kiev itself admits that this cannot happen until the war with Russia is over.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with European leaders in Moldova last week, calling on NATO to promise security guarantees if membership is still not possible.
The presidents of the alliance's eastern countries, most of which border Ukraine or Russia, met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday in a sign of further support for Ukraine in its accession to NATO.
- We are strengthening relations with Ukraine in terms of concrete practical assistance, but also in bringing closer relations with it, Slovak President Zuzana Chaputova, host of the summit, said at a press conference.
"We do not see this as an expansion or encroachment of NATO towards Russia," she added, saying she would insist on giving assurances to NATO members that Russia would not absorb countries on its borders.
NATO's eastern flank, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – also known as the Bucharest Nine – are Ukraine's staunchest supporters.
Some NATO members, however, fear the sudden step could bring the alliance closer to a direct confrontation with Russia, and Hungarian President Katalin Novak warned against making "unrealistic promises."
"We expect that in Vilnius we will raise our relations with Ukraine to a new level and start a new political path that will lead to Ukraine's membership in NATO, once the conditions allow," said the Bucharest Nine.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who will host the summit in Vilnius, also said that while nine countries unanimously support Ukraine's NATO membership, getting support from other NATO allies is "problematic".
- We still don't see where this will go, he said.
"In the coming weeks we must find a way to take a big step forward and not disappoint the expectations of Ukraine and its supporters," he added.
- It will not be enough to repeat once again that NATO's doors are open, he added