What you need to know
- NATO will extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the military alliance when "members agree and conditions are met," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Vilnius to attend the summit and address what he calls "absurd" delays to Kyiv's accession to the alliance.
- The summit is taking place in the Lithuanian capital, just 35 kilometers (20 miles) from the border of Russia's main ally, Belarus.
Day 1 coverage concluded
That's all for our live updates from the opening day of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
You can also read a roundup of Tuesday's events here.
We'll be back tomorrow with more from Lithuania and beyond.
German MP says NATO members want to see Ukraine in alliance
Dietmar Nietan, a member of Foreign Affairs Committee at the German Bundestag, told DW that Ukraine should become a NATO member "as fast as it is possible in a framework that makes this NATO accession a success story."
Nietan said he could understand Ukraine's disappointment that no timetable was announced in Vilnius, but said that unity in NATO was "the best weapon" to protect Ukraine.
"I think we are now at the point where we have unity that we want to see Ukraine in the NATO. But we need to prepare some details of a roadmap to present it then also in public," he said.
The German MP said that the situation now was different from 2008 and the following years, when not every NATO member state was convinced by the wisdom of trying to bring Ukraine into the alliance.
"We want to see Ukraine in NATO. It is a base we can work on and we should do that and we should do it very accurate and very quickly. And in that sense, I think we can make progress even out of this summit of NATO," he said.
Baltic states make it easier for NATO allies to access their airspace
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will grant their NATO allies full access to their shared airspace, the three countries' defense ministers agreed on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
This means that all NATO countries will be able to use their shared airspace without prior notice. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own combat aircraft. That is why NATO has been protecting the Baltic airspace since 2004.
To this end, the allies regularly rotate combat aircraft and personnel. The units are stationed at military airports in Siauliai (Lithuania) and Amari (Estonia). In the coming year, the airspace will also be monitored from Lielvarde (Latvia).
Zelenskyy says Ukraine will make NATO stronger
"NATO will give Ukraine security, Ukraine will make NATO stronger," Zelenskyy said, standing alongside Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
The Ukrainian president wants a clear timetable from NATO on bringing his country into the alliance. "Today I set off here with faith... in a NATO that does not hesitate, does not waste time. I would like this faith to become confidence — confidence in the solutions that we deserve," he said.
Earlier NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said previous accessions to NATO have not been accompanied by a timeline, "They are conditions-based."
Zelenskyy thanked the Lithuanians for taking in many Ukrainian war refugees. "The Ukrainian flags on the streets of Lithuania clearly prove that we are already allies and that Ukraine is defending its own and your freedom," he said.
As Zelenskyy spoke, the Twitter tagline "#UkraineNato33" flashed behind him, alluding to Ukraine's plans to become the 33rd member of the military alliance after Finland and Sweden.
NATO allies agreed to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense
According to Stoltenberg,NATO members have agreed that their established goal of spending two percent of their national output on defense will become a minimum level.
"Eleven allies now reach or exceed the two percent benchmark. And we expect this number will rise substantially next year. Today, allies made an enduring commitment to invest at least two percent of gross domestic product annually in defense," he said.
Stoltenberg also said that China is increasingly challenging the rules-based international order. However, China is not NATO's adversary, and allies should continue to engage in dialogue with China, he added.
Ukraine to join NATO 'when conditions are met'
NATO leaders have agreed at a summit in Vilnius that Ukraine's future lies within the alliance, but stopped short of handing Kyiv a formal invitation or a timetable for accession that the country has been seeking.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Vilnius that NATO will extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the military alliance when "members agree and conditions are met." He, however, added that leaders have not set a timetable for Ukraine to join.
"We reaffirmed Ukraine will become a member of NATO and agreed to remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan," Stoltenberg said. The decision will change Ukraine's membership path from two steps to one step, he said.
"Ukraine's future is in NATO," a declaration agreed by the leaders said, adding that Kyiv's Euro-Atlantic integration had moved beyond the need for NATO's so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP) — a sort of road map of military reforms that some allies have had to follow.
"We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met," the declaration said.
While leaders did not specify the conditions Ukraine needs to meet, they said the alliance would help Kyiv to make progress on military interoperability as well as on additional democratic and security sector reforms.
They also decided to establish the NATO-Ukraine Council, "a new joint body where Allies and Ukraine sit as equal members to advance political dialogue, engagement, cooperation, and Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier said it would be "absurd" if NATO leaders gathering for a summit did not offer his country a timeframe for membership, after the alliance head said it would send Kyiv a "positive message."
NATO allies agree language on Ukraine membership pathway
NATO leaders agreed "Ukraine's future is in NATO" but will not extend an invitation to Kyiv at a summit in Vilnius, German news agency DPA reported.
"We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are me," a source told the Reuters agency.
Zelenskyy arrives in Vilnius
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plane has touched down in the Lithuanian capital, which hosts the NATO summit.
Zelenskyy is due to attend a social dinner tonight and a session with NATO-member leaders tomorrow, the alliance's Chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.
Zelenskyy and his administration have been for months pushing for a clear timeline for Kyiv's NATO accession during the Vilnius summit. Before arriving on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president said he saw "no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member."
Zelenskyy criticizes lack of NATO membership timeframe
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has criticized as "unprecedented and absurd" the lack of a clear timeframe for Ukraine's NATO accession.
Tweeting as he prepares to attend the Vilnius summit, Zelenskyy said that on his way to the meeting he received "signals that certain wording [on Ukraine's membership] is being discussed without Ukraine."
"And I would like to emphasize that this wording is about the invitation to become NATO member, not about Ukraine's membership," the president said on Twitter.
He stressed that Kyiv values its allies and its shared security, adding that his country "deserves respect."
"It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance," Zelenskyy wrote. He warned that this would open a window for Russia "to continue its terror" against his country.
"Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit."
Germany's Scholz pledges Ukraine post-war security assurances
"For us it is important from the outset that there are security assurances for Ukraine that can be effective [once there is] peace. And for this we will also make the necessary agreements," he said on the sidelines of the summit.
Kyiv has for months pushed for a clear plan for its NATO accession to be presented during the summit. As per the military alliance's rules, no country can join while it is engaged in active conflict.
Kremlin wary of Sweden's NATO accession
The Kremlin said it expected clear negative implications for Russia's security from Sweden's NATO accession.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Moscow would respond with similar measures to those taken after Finland joined the alliance.
Peskov also said the Kremlin was closely watching the NATO summit and would make a "deep analysis" of the statements by Western leaders.
He said leaders did not seem to understand that moving NATO infrastructure toward Russian borders was a "mistake." He reiterated Moscow's rhetoric that the current crisis around Ukraine was a product of the military alliance's advance into Central and Eastern Europe.
Biden reaffirms US commitment to NATO
US President Joe Biden has reaffirmed his country's commitment to the NATO alliance.
"Nothing happens here that doesn't affect us," Biden said. He spoke alongside Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who welcomed him to his country upon the US president's arrival in the early hours of Tuesday.
"Our pledge to be with you has not wavered," Biden said.
Lithuania's geographic proximity to the conflict in Ukraine has made Vilnius particularly wary of the war's consequences for Eastern Europe.
Military support for Ukraine 'most imminent task'
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed to reporters that the alliance's military support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia remained "the most imminent task."
Stoltenberg assured that the message this summit would send regarding both Ukraine's military support and NATO membership would be positive.
"Rest assured the message will be positive, the message will be strong, the message will be united from NATO allies," he told reporters.
But the secretary general stressed that military support was "the most imminent task."
"Because, unless we ensure that Ukraine wins this war, unless we ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation, there is no membership issue to be discussed," Stoltenberg said.
When asked about reports concerning the movement of Russia's Wagner mercenary fighters into Belarus, Stoltenberg said no deployment had been clocked by the alliance, but added that officials were staying vigilant and "following closely."
Hungary's ratification of Sweden's bid 'technicality,' top diplomat says
Hungary's ratification of Sweden's bid to join the alliance is now just a formality, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, after Turkey eventually said it backed Stockholm's bid to join the alliance.
"The completion of the ratification process is now only a technical question," Szijjarto said in a statement on Facebook. He added that Budapest's position on Sweden's accession was clear.
Turkey and Hungary were the only two NATO members whose approval of Sweden's membership bid was pending.
On Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Budapest supports Sweden's bid.
"We are in continuous contact with both the NATO secretary-general and the Turks," he said. "If we see that we have something to do we will do it. Hungary is not famous for dithering if we have to make a decision."
Lithuanian political expert urges swift NATO accession for Ukraine
Margarita Seselgyte, a political scientist from Vilnius University, has told DW that people in Lithuania view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "coward."
"He is frightened of NATO," she said. "As soon as Ukraine is a member of NATO, the war could be over. Putin is too scared and not capable of attacking the alliance as a whole."
Prolonging Ukraine's membership bid might only serve in turn as an invitation to the Russian aggressor to prolong the war, she said.