Lithuania is urging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to begin negotiations regarding Ukraine’s prospective membership. Though Vilnius acknowledged, Kiev is unlikely to be admitted for some time. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Brussels to accelerate Kiev’s NATO membership.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said, “the key thing is not the simplified NATO admission procedures applied in Sweden and Finland’s case, but the consensus of 30 countries that [Ukraine] can be admitted to NATO and that the process itself must start, despite the war,” on Saturday.
Stockholm and Helsinki applied for NATO membership in June, and recently a White House official said they expected Sweden and Finland to be formally admitted by Christmas. However, Turkey reissued threats this week to veto membership for the two Nordic states if they fail to implement their trilateral agreement with Akanara. NATO membership requires the support of all other members.
According to Anusauskas, Ukraine has Lithuania’s “unconditional support.” Though he admits “it seems to be an unattainable goal.” In June, the New York Times reported, citing U.S. officials, that Lithuania is one of four NATO states which have deployed forces to the Ukrainian battlefield. Lithuanian “commandos” are “training and advising Ukrainian troops and providing an on-the-ground conduit for weapons and other aid.” If Ukraine were admitted into NATO, it would put the alliance directly at war with Moscow.
Russia currently controls five areas of Ukraine claimed by Kiev. After the Kremlin announced it annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia last week, Zelensky vowed Kiev would retake the territory. At the same time, he renewed his push to have Kiev admitted to the Brussels-based alliance in an accelerated membership process. Zelensky went on to claim Kiev is already a “de facto” NATO member.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the Ukrainian leader’s request. Washington and Brussels have pledged to provide Kiev increased military support in response to the Russian annexation.