NATO chief admits splits on Ukraine membership push
Ukraine, backed by NATO countries in eastern Europe, is urging a "clear message" at a July summit of alliance leaders in Lithuania's capital Vilnius that it will join after the war ends.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, on Wednesday, that the Western military alliance's members are divided on what to do regarding Ukraine's bid to join.
"On that issue, there are different views in the alliance and of course, the only way to make decisions in NATO is by consensus," Stoltenberg told a conference in Brussels.
Ukraine -- backed by NATO countries in eastern Europe -- is urging a "clear message" at a July summit of alliance leaders in Lithuania's capital Vilnius that it will join after the war ends.
Kiev admits it will not join "while violence rages on its soil." However, it wants the alliance to go beyond a vague 2008 vow that it will join NATO one day.
"No one is able to tell you exactly what will be the final decision at the Vilnius summit on this issue," Stoltenberg said.
The alliance's leading military power, the United States, is hesitant to move beyond the pledge of membership given to Ukraine 15 years ago.
By joining the US-led military alliance, Ukraine would be subject to the alliance's Article 5 collective defense provision, which requires all members to assist in defending the country if it is attacked.
Ukraine's Western partners are considering if alternative sorts of security assurances may be provided to Ukraine as an intermediate measure before it joins NATO.
France said, on Tuesday, that it is eager to achieve an agreement with Ukraine on "security guarantees that will help it defend itself in the long run."
"The ultimate security guarantee will be NATO membership, but... that's not something that will happen in the midst of a war," Stoltenberg said.
"The question is, what will we decide on and how will we address the issue of membership at the Vilnius summit? And as I said, it's too early to say," he added.
Stoltenberg stressed that when the war in Ukraine ends, "we need to make sure that we have arrangements in place to deter further Russian aggression."
"That is partly by providing military support to Ukraine to help them deter, and defend themselves," he said.
"But that will also then open the discussions about different kinds of security arrangements," he concluded.
Stoltenberg stated that he anticipated NATO leaders to agree on a multi-year initiative to assist Ukraine's military in transitioning to Western gear during the summit.
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