NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has visited Ukraine for the first time since Russia invaded over a year ago, confirming in a tweet that he met with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Stoltenberg further said that Ukraine should be in NATO. "Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO, and over time our support will help to make this possible. We stand by you today and for the long haul," the NATO chief said.
A NATO press release quoted Stoltenberg as reminding his Ukrainian audience and the world that nations in the Western military alliance have provided the war-ravaged country with more than 150 billion euros of support since the war began.
"Your determination to fight the aggressor, liberate your land, and work for a brighter future says very clearly to me: Ukraine will prevail," Stoltenberg said.
He visited Bucha, site of alleged Russian atrocities, and visited a memorial remembering fallen Ukrainian soldiers in St. Michael’s Square in Kyiv.
Stoltenberg has of late grown bolder and bolder in his assertions that Ukraine should eventually join NATO.
Footage of the visit via the Ukrainian presidency's office:
This visit of Jens Stoltenberg is the 1st since the full-scale war, being a sign of a new chapter in NATO-Ukraine relations.— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) April 20, 2023
Source: Volodymyr Zelenskyy pic.twitter.com/jpdNPUvep7
For example when earlier this month Finland was formally inducted into the alliance at a ceremony in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the following:
He added that Kyiv can win the war and become a full-fledged NATO member one day.
Responding to the Kyiv Independent at a news conference, Stoltenberg said that "NATO's position remains unchanged and that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance."
NATO's long-time leader emphasized that the "main focus" now is to ensure that Ukraine remains a sovereign, independent nation in Europe. "The first step toward any membership of Ukraine to NATO is to ensure that Ukraine prevails, and that is why the U.S. and its partners have provided unprecedented support for Ukraine," he added.
Of course, all of this is dangerously premised on what would in effect be Russia's collapse, given the nuclear-armed superpower would never allow Ukraine to become a full-fledged NATO member, even if to some degree its militarization by NATO has already taken place throughout the conflict.
From the point of view of resistant NATO countries like Hungary, accepting Ukraine into NATO would automatically trigger Article 5 common defense, which is why it doesn't induct nations with simmering conflicts on their borders (or especially not while they're in the midst of a hot war). This means that certainly there would be at least a handful of holdout nations reluctant to approve any future application by Ukraine, given it would mean that nuclear conflict with Russia would be on the horizo