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NATO working to ensure 'Putin does not do this again'

Published June 1, 2023last updated June 1, 2023

NATO is working on a framework to halt Russia's "cycle of aggression" against Kyiv, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after meeting the alliance's top diplomats in Oslo.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needs to set out 'security guarantees' for Ukraine to break the cycle of Russian aggressionImage: Hanna Johre/NTB/REUTERS

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the trans-Atlantic military alliance is working on the "urgent task" of ensuring Ukraine wins the war, but needs a framework for after the conflict ends.

The comments came following informal talks with the alliance's foreign ministers on Thursday. 

The ministers met in the Norwegian capital of Oslo for a second and final day of informal talks that seek to unify positions on Ukraine support and defense spending ahead of a NATO leaders summit in Lithuania in July.

What did Stoltenberg say? 

The NATO head told reporters that while no decisions were made during the informal talks, all of the alliance's members agree "Ukraine will become a member of NATO" but the war must come to an end first.

"The most important thing for NATO and Ukraine is to assure that they win this war," Stoltenberg said. "And we are providing an unprecedented level of support."

Stoltenberg: 'Ukraine will become a member' of NATO

When asked about setting up a concrete set of steps for Ukraine's NATO accession after the war ends, Stoltenberg said the alliance is working on a framework to ensure Ukraine's security and the wider security of the rest of Europe.

"We need to stop this vicious circle of aggression against Ukraine," he told reporters.

He added that NATO needs to create "frameworks to provide the necessary security guarantees" for Ukraine in order "to ensure that President Putin does not do this again."

Rose Gottemoeller, former deputy Secretary-General of NATO, told DW that Kyiv still needed to meet "certain requirements with regard to overall governance of the country." She said that Ukraine has been suffering from corruption, a frequent topic of discussion between NATO and Kyiv.

Where do NATO's members stand on Ukraine?

The foreign ministers discussed a range of issues, but the primary focus was on the alliance's future relationship with Ukraine and what support can be provided as Russia continues its war.

Sweden, whose NATO membership bid has been stalled by resistance from Turkey and Hungary, also took part in the informal discussions in Oslo.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the talks in Oslo will "set the stage" for the NATO leaders' summit in July in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius — and that reaching a unified position now is key.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks in Oslo at a NATO foreign ministers' meeting
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said support for Ukraine's defense capabilities are 'central' to Thursday's talks in OsloImage: Hanna Johre/NTB/REUTERS

While the alliance agrees on Ukraine's future membership, the question now is how to continue providing support to Ukraine without NATO coming into direct conflict with Russia.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that the alliance now needs to consider what kind of security guarantees NATO can provide Ukraine. 

Lithuania and Spain's foreign ministers both said the alliance needs to set out concrete steps for Ukraine's membership after the war ends.

However, Hungary's foreign minister insisted the accession of Ukraine should not be on the agenda during July's NATO summit, Hungary's foreign minister is insisting.

"We have to be clear on this: the NATO accession of a country currently at war cannot be on the agenda," Peter Szijjarto said on his Facebook page. Szijjarto added that a timetable for Ukraine's accession should not be discussed either.

Hungary, a member of both the EU and NATO, has been a reluctant supporter of the West's sanctions on Russia. 

Sweden's NATO membership standoff

Another issue high on the list of the foreign ministers' talks was Sweden's stalled membership bid in the alliance.

Stoltenberg, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Baerbock, emphasized that they fully expect Sweden to soon become a member.

"We aim to welcome Sweden as a new NATO member at the Vilnius summit in July," Baerbock told reporters. 

Sweden's membership bid, however, remains up in the air amid pushback from NATO members Turkey and Hungary.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was reelected on Sunday for another five-year term, has accused Sweden of harboring "terrorists," particularly members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Thursday that his country had fulfilled "all the commitments" to join NATO.

"It is time for Turkey and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO," he said. "This was never a sprint, it's a marathon, and we now see the end of it." 

rs/kb (dpa, Reuters)

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