By Alexandra Brzozowski
Ukraine will request fast-track NATO membership, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday (30 September), shortly after Russia formally annexed four Moscow-held regions of Ukraine.
“We are making our defining step by signing Ukraine’s application for accession to NATO in an expedited manner,” Zelenskyy announced in a Facebook video, flanked by Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk.
“De facto, we have already made our way to NATO. De facto we have already proven compliance with the Alliance standards, (…) de facto, today Ukraine is applying to make this de-jure,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what this would mean in practice and whether any of the NATO members, who had been wary of inviting Ukraine to join the alliance even before the war, are supporting the step.
NATO was not immediately available for comment, but Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was expected to address reporters in Brussels at 18:00 CET.
Membership in the alliance requires the unanimous support of all its 30 members and there is no fast-track procedure.
Upon receiving a formal letter of intent, the military alliance would need to assess the request in a sitting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of the 30 member countries, probably at the ambassadorial level.
NATO ambassadors then decide whether to move toward membership and what steps must be taken to achieve it.
This depends on how well aligned the candidate countries are with NATO’s political, military and legal standards and whether they contribute to security in the North Atlantic area.
Kyiv’s move follows Russia’s formal announcement of the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions in what is Europe’s biggest land grab since WWII.
In his video speech, Zelenskyy accused Russia of brazenly rewriting history and redrawing borders “using murder, blackmail, mistreatment and lies,” something he said Kyiv would not allow.
He said, however, that Ukraine remained committed to the idea of co-existence with Russia “on equal, honest, dignified and fair conditions” but added that “clearly, with this Russian president, .it is impossible”.
“He [Putin] does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia,” Zelenskyy said.