A decision on Ukraine’s request to join NATO must be taken by all members, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.
“NATO is not party to the conflict,” Stoltenberg said, adding that “a decision on [Ukraine’s] membership has to be taken by all 30 allies by consensus.”
Stoltenberg called Russia’s announcement to annex Ukrainian territory the most serious escalation of the conflict since Moscow invaded its neighbour in February.
“Putin has mobilised hundreds of thousands of more troops, engaged in irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling and now illegally annexed more Ukrainian territory. Together, this represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.
He said the alliance reaffirmed its “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would not be deterred by Putin from supporting the country in defending itself against Russia.
Ukraine’s president earlier says his country is submitting an “accelerated” application to join the NATO transatlantic military alliance.
“We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to NATO,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post issued in the wake of Russia’s annexation announcement.
Ascension to the alliance requires the unanimous approval of all 30 of the alliance’s member states. Prior to launching its offensive in late February, Russia had insisted on guarantees from the West that Ukraine would never join NATO.