Zelensky angered by NATO’s refusal to offer a membership timeline

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the crowd from a stage and on a giant video screen during an event on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, July 11, 2023. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday blasted as "absurd" the absence of a timetable for his country's membership in NATO, injecting harsh criticism into a gathering of the alliance's leaders that was intended to showcase solidarity in the face of Russian aggression. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted angrily after NATO member states refused to offer his country an invitation, or even a clear timetable to join the alliance at the two-day summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius this week, despite months of intensive campaigning by Kyiv.

“NATO makes Ukraine safer, and Ukraine makes NATO stronger,” Zelensky told a crowd of thousands in downtown Vilnius on Tuesday, expressing disappointment that his country was not offered a formal invitation.

“I came here today with belief in a decision, in partners, and in a strong NATO that does not doubt, does not waste time, and defies all aggressors,” Zelensky told the audience.

“I wish that this faith becomes a certainty, a certainty in the decisions that we all deserve and that all our soldiers, all our citizens, all mothers, and children expect. Is that such a great wish?” he asked supporters who waved Ukrainian flags.

The Ukrainian president spoke shortly after NATO members agreed that Ukraine would only be able to join the organization if the Allies agreed and certain conditions were met. Earlier in the day, Zelensky said on his micro-blog that the lack of a timetable for Ukraine’s accession to NATO was absurd.

The event was also attended by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who presented Zelensky with a bullet-riddled Ukrainian flag, which was then hoisted on a pole. The flag was once pinned to a tank that took part in the fighting in Bakhut. It was brought to Vilnius by 33 Ukrainian and Lithuanian runners, symbolizing the hope that Ukraine could become the newest member of the alliance.

“Ukraine is buying us time with its blood so that we can prepare and give a strong answer to Russia,” said Nauseda.

In a long, 90-paragraph statement issued on the first day of the summit, NATO said, “We reaffirm the commitment we made at the 2008 Summit in Bucharest that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, and today we recognise that Ukraine’s path to full Euro-Atlantic integration has moved beyond the need for the Membership Action Plan.”

It did not, however, extend a formal invitation to the country, ending with a somewhat vague commitment: “We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.”

Share This Article