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Neutral nations enjoying NATO protection should join alliance, UK defense chief says

Britain’s defense chief Grant Shapps called for neutral nations benefiting from NATO’s protection to join the alliance, citing Russia’s threat to European security.
Grant Shapps, UK Defense Seretary. Photo: Flickr/number10gov
Neutral nations enjoying NATO protection should join alliance, UK defense chief says

UK Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps said on May 22 that neutral nations benefiting from NATO’s protection should join the alliance, Politico reports. In a London speech, Shapps stopped short of naming countries like Ireland, Malta, Austria and Switzerland, but made clear Britain would lobby for more nations to become NATO members.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden to reconsider their stance and join NATO within the past two years.

I will make the case for NATO to bring all those who benefit from the alliance’s umbrella of protection into the organization,” Shapps said, adding that “Some European countries effectively benefit from NATO coverage, they enjoy the benefits of freedom and liberty, and yet fail to sign up to the Continent’s collective deterrence.”

Pointing to the threat posed by Russia, Shapps said that with European security at risk, “there should be no place for neutrality.”

Ukraine’s bid to join NATO

Ukraine formally submitted an application to become a NATO member on 30 September 2022. Shortly after, the presidents of nine NATO states expressed their support for Ukraine joining NATO. Yet in July 2023, US President Joe Biden stated that Ukraine was not yet ready to join NATO, emphasizing a lack of unanimity within NATO.

At NATO’s 2023 Vilnius summit, it was decided that Ukraine would no longer need to participate in a Membership Action Plan before joining the alliance, but NATO has not extended to Ukraine an invitation for membership so far.

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