Only full NATO membership can truly protect Ukraine, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Friday as his country continues to seek security guarantees from the West.
“We are not looking for a substitute for NATO, and it is very important that our partners hear us,” Zelensky told reporters after his meeting with Estonian President Alar Karis in Kiev. “That is why we are having so many meetings at the highest level. We are not looking for an alternative.”
Zelensky argued that the existing commitments of NATO members to defend each other would be “the best security guarantees for Ukraine.”
He was referring to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty that stipulates that an attack against one member of the US-led military bloc “shall be considered an attack against them all.”
At the same time, the Ukrainian leader acknowledged that it is unlikely that his country can join NATO until the armed conflict with Russia is over, according to his office. “It is not because we don’t want it, but because it is impossible,” he said.
Zelensky’s statement came after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested this week that Kiev could be granted some form of “tangible” security guarantees without formally becoming a part of NATO.
Ukraine applied to join the Western alliance in September 2022, citing the military operation launched by Moscow in the neighboring state earlier that year. The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Zelensky told Western partners that he would not attend the NATO summit in Lithuania in July unless the bloc offers Ukraine “concrete” guarantees or a roadmap to membership.
Russia views NATO’s continued eastward expansion as a threat to its security and has cited member states’ aid to Ukraine as one of the reasons it launched the military operation in the neighboring state in February 2022. Moscow recently said that Ukraine’s neutrality would be one of key conditions for a lasting peace.
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