(Kyiv) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday urged NATO to integrate his country into its ranks and deliver more weapons to fight Russia, a red rag for Moscow which sees the Atlantic Alliance as an existential threat.
Ukraine has been calling for this membership for years, and even more so since the Russian invasion of February 2022, seeing it as the only real guarantee of its security against Moscow.
Favorable in principle to the integration of this country, NATO is on the other hand very vague concerning the timetable, its entry into the organization risking provoking an escalation in the conflict, because Russia considers such an enlargement as a line red.
“ The NATO summit in Vilnius (in July) can become historic ”, insisted Mr. Zelensky, judging it “ important that Ukraine (there) receives the appropriate invitation ” to join this organization. “It’s time,” he insisted.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the Alliance’s support for Ukraine’s ambitions, but said nothing about the timing, saying the priority should be winning the war.
“The future of Ukraine is in the Euro-Atlantic family, the future of Ukraine is in NATO. At the same time, the main objective of the Alliance, of its members, is to ensure that Ukraine wins,” noted the official.
However, he assured that the issue of membership would be discussed at the July summit in Lithuania, which he hopes to see Mr Zelensky attend.
“I recognize of course that President Zelensky will raise the issue of membership, security guarantees, and that will be at the very top of the agenda,” he said.
The Kremlin repeated, for its part, Thursday through the voice of Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, that one of the objectives of its offensive was precisely to prevent any entry of Ukraine into the Atlantic Alliance, because “ this would constitute a serious threat to our country and its security ”.
Having failed to achieve a quick military victory, Russia now presents the conflict in Ukraine as a NATO proxy war and the invasion of that country as a necessity.
On the issue of Western military aid to Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky urged Stoltenberg to do more.
Because Kyiv says it urgently needs fighters, armor, artillery and long-range firing systems to hit Russian warehouses, far behind the front line.
After resisting the Russian assaults on the Eastern Front all winter, the Ukrainian forces are preparing their own offensive for the spring or summer, but for this they must stock up on ammunition and weapons.
Mr. Zelensky also stressed that the objective remained “ the complete liberation of the (Ukrainian) lands from the Russian occupier ”.
But between insufficient stocks, fear of escalation and logistical problems, Europeans and Americans have been more cautious than Kyiv would have liked.
Mr. Zelensky therefore urged Mr. Stoltenberg to help him “ overcome the reluctance of our partners regarding the delivery of certain weapons, namely (those) of long range, modern aviation, artillery, armored vehicles ” .
In the meantime, Ukraine is paying with “ the lives of our soldiers, who have not yet received the essential defense tools ”, underlined the Ukrainian President.
Kyiv’s ability to mount a large-scale counter-offensive is the main subject of speculation at the start of spring, after a long phase of attrition war intended to exhaust the Russian enemy.
While the fierce defense of Bakhmout — the epicenter city of the fighting in the east — has cost the Russian attackers dearly, the Ukrainian army has also suffered significant losses and is consuming precious stocks of ammunition.
Mr Stoltenberg noted in this context that the discussions scheduled for Friday with NATO member states at the US military base at Ramstein in Germany would focus on additional arms deliveries, without specifying which ones.
The Alliance is focused on ammunition supplies for systems already deployed in Ukraine, he said. “ I expect allies (within the organization) and NATO partners to make further concrete announcements of military support for Ukraine ”.
“It is extremely important to ensure that the systems, the weapons that are already in Ukraine are working as they should be, that is, you need ammunition, huge amounts of ammunition, spare parts, maintenance,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
Westerners have provided more than $150 billion in aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, including $65 billion in military aid, he said.