NATO Membership Key to Preventing Future Russian Attacks in Ukraine: Stoltenberg

NATO Membership Key to Preventing Future Russian Attacks in Ukraine: Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) meets with lawmakers in Washington, on July 10, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on July 10 that ensuring Ukraine could join the alliance as a full member is the best way to deter future Russian aggression following 10 years of conflict in eastern Europe.

“I strongly believe that when the fighting stops, we need to ensure that Ukraine has the capabilities to deter future aggression from Russia and they need security guarantees,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

“I believe that a way to ensure that it stops is actually a NATO membership.”

Mr. Stoltenberg made his comments at the 75th annual NATO Summit in Washington, where the allies are unveiling a suite of packages, billed as a “bridge to membership,” to support Ukraine.

Among the initiatives announced is the establishment of a new military command in Germany that will train and equip Ukrainian forces, with the intention of building the nation’s interoperability with NATO forces.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that the command would consist of about 700 personnel, and would take over responsibility for some security matters that have thus far been provided by the United States.

The “more institutionalized framework” for force development, he said, would “facilitate and ensure training and delivery of security assistance to Ukraine.”

He added that building interoperability between NATO and Ukrainian forces and helping Ukraine to join the alliance would be the best way to stop conflicts that have plagued the region for a decade, beginning with Crimea in 2014 before spreading to the Donbas region and eventually culminating in 2022’s full-scale invasion.

“So, we have seen a pattern where they’ve taken slices of Ukraine,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “If there is now a new cease-fire, a new agreement, then we need to be 100 percent certain it stops there, regardless of where that line is.”

“The most urgent, the most critical task at this summit, will be everything we will do and decide on Ukraine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made preventing Ukraine’s accession to NATO a key war aim, and last month said that a peace deal would be contingent upon Ukraine agreeing never to join the alliance.

Mr. Putin also demanded that Ukraine surrender several eastern provinces that Russian forces have failed to gain control of.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the time that the offer was a ploy to trick Ukraine into surrendering territory where it still has troops.

“What Putin demands is to give them a part of our territories, those occupied and not occupied, talking about several regions of our country,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine’s chances of being accepted into NATO after a cease-fire is arranged are slim, as membership is contingent upon the unanimous consent of all 32 member states of the alliance, some of which are unwilling to take actions that they believe would anger Russia.

However, the Ukrainian leadership considers NATO membership a key goal. Likewise, many leaders from NATO’s easternmost member states fear Russian aggression will spread further without serious investments in collective deterrence.

“When we take the threat of Russia, the first thing we have to understand is that we cannot change the geography,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said on July 9.

Another challenge is keeping NATO’s largest member, the United States, invested in global security.

Mr. Stoltenberg said that it is because the U.S. public had a perception of being “alone in Ukraine,” even though European allies contribute more than 50 percent of NATO’s security assistance to the embattled nation.

“Roughly 50 percent of the military support is provided by European allies and Canada,” he said. “If you add economic, macroeconomic support, humanitarian support, the European allies are providing much more than the United States”

Mr. Stoltenberg urged NATO members to continue their support for Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression in general, suggesting that’s a key part of the global struggle against authoritarianism.

“If we want to stand up for democracy and freedom, it’s now. And the place is Ukraine.”

From The Epoch Times