No consensus on Ukraine’s NATO membership yet, NATO chief says

International, War in the Donbas

In his interview about NATO affairs with “Axios on HBO” published on 14 November, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO was closely monitoring the “unusual” Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s border.

However, in case of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries won’t defend it as Ukraine isn’t a member of the alliance for now.

Explaining why Ukraine still wasn’t granted the alliance’s membership despite striving for it for years, Mr. Stoltenberg referred to the fact that a would-be NATO member receives the membership only under a consensus agreement of the current member countries, which wasn’t yet achieved in Ukraine’s case.

“Stoltenberg — who became secretary-general in 2014 and finishes next year — has led the alliance through arguably the rockiest stretch in its history,” the program gives the bottom line on Stoltenberg’s tenure in NATO.

Jens Stoltenberg interviewed by Jonathan Swan of “Axios on HBO”. Screenshot: Youtube/HBO

The Ukraine-related part of the interview goes as follows:

“If Russia invades Ukraine again, what would NATO do about it?” interviewer Jonathan Swan asked Jens Stoltenberg.

“I met recently, just last week (on 2 November in Glasgow, – Ed.) President Zelenskyy,” said the NATO chief, “And I once again expressed NATO’s support to Ukraine, our support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity sovereignty, and the fact that NATO…”

“You know that drives him crazy when you say that, right?” interrupted the interviewer.

“I know that he wants something more and I respect that he appreciates the support he gets from NATO, from NATO allies but he also has been very clear when I meet him that he wants something more – he wants full membership,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

“He wants real meaningful protection against Russia,” Jonathan Swan suggested, “they were promised NATO membership back in 2008, nothing’s happened, they got invaded, their territory was seized, it’s still captured by Russia.”

“It’s wrong to say that nothing has happened…” the NATO chief started replying.

“For the membership?” the interviewer asked.

“Yeah, they’re not become members but first of all we have strengthened our partnership, we’re working much more closely with them…”

“But you won’t defend them, obviously?”

“Ukraine is not part of NATO, meaning Ukraine is not covered by our collective defense clause, our Article 5. To be a NATO member, you need to meet the NATO standards, we help them with modernizing, fighting corruption, but 30 allies have to agree and we don’t have a consensus agreement in NATO now
on inviting Ukraine into becoming a full member,” Jens Stoltenberg replied.

“I can think of current NATO members, whose governments are deeply corrupt, undemocratic,” the interviewer noted “Isn’t this just really about, you know, people don’t want to fight with Putin, they don’t want to provoke him. And it’s a dangerous lesson because Putin must know that the way to stop a country joining NATO is to invade it.”

“Well, Putin and Russia has protested against every enlargement of NATO, and Russia and Putin expressed a lot of criticism against North Macedonia and Montenegro joining NATO – and they have joined NATO recently over the last couple of years,” the NATO chief replied.

“And those armies are more proficient than Ukraine’s?” the question followed.

“Well, we have the right to make our own assessments on whether a NATO country – an applicant country, an aspiring country meets the NATO standards,” Stoltenberg said.

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