NATO leader on Ukraine’s fast-track into alliance: Membership ‘has to be taken by consensus’

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday declined to commit to whether Ukraine’s application to join the alliance will be fast-tracked, saying its bid to join “needs to be taken by consensus.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced last week that his country will file an expedited application to join NATO. 

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” moderator Chuck Todd asked the NATO chief whether the alliance would fast-track Ukraine’s application. about the alliance’s open-door policy to allow countries to join the alliance. 

“NATO has an open-door policy and every nation, including of course also Ukraine, has the right to choose its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of,” Stoltenberg told Todd. “At the same time, any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus. All thirty allies have to agree to make such a decision.” 

Stoltenberg said the main focus of the alliance is continuing to support Ukraine in fighting back against Russia.

“They need more support. They need continued support,” Stoltenberg said. “And that’s the message I conveyed to President Zelensky when I spoke to him a few days ago. And that’s the message from NATO leaders and again, not least from the United States, which really makes a difference and matters when we see the war going on in Ukraine.” 

NATO rapidly moved to admit Finland and Sweden into alliance earlier this year after they submitted applications amid fears of Russian aggression.

Ukraine made a push to join NATO early in its war with Russia, but Zelensky conceded in March that its accession was unlikely. The Ukrainian president’s latest appeal comes after a series of military victories that have allowed Kyiv to retake territories previously occupied by Russia.

In his presidential statement on Friday, Zelensky said that Ukraine and NATO have been “de facto” allies throughout the war.

“We are de facto allies. This has already been achieved. De facto, we have already completed our path to NATO. De facto, we have already proven interoperability with the Alliance’s standards, they are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” Zelensky said in his statement. 

“We trust each other, we help each other and we protect each other. This is what the Alliance is. De facto.”

Zelensky’s remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially moved on Friday to annex regions of eastern Ukraine, an illegal move condemned by Kyiv and its allies.