During his first visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg promised Kiev the military alliance’s help “for as long as necessary”. “Ukraine deserves a place in NATO,” said the 64-year-old at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev.

According to the Secretary General, the NATO countries have provided the equivalent of more than 136 billion euros in military aid since the beginning of the war. During his visit, Stoltenberg also visited the Kiev suburbs of Irpin and Bucha, which were occupied by Russian troops in spring 2022 and where the bodies of hundreds of civilians were later found.

Selenskyj thanked Stoltenberg for personally inviting him to the NATO summit in Vilnius in July. “The time has come for the leaders to determine the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO,” said the 45-year-old. On the way to NATO membership, Ukraine also needs security guarantees from the military alliance.

“Breaking the Cycle of Russian Aggression”

Stoltenberg has been a tireless supporter of Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression and has continually campaigned for new arms deliveries to the Ukrainian armed forces. At a summit meeting of the eastern alliance states in Warsaw, the Norwegian recently spoke out in favor of showing Russia its borders once and for all. “We must not allow Russia to continue undermining European security,” said the Norwegian at the time. One must “break the cycle of Russian aggression” and ensure “that history does not repeat itself”.

Stoltenberg is also one of those politicians who have repeatedly shown themselves open to significantly greater support for Ukraine with Western weapon systems. When asked last year whether the Allies should meet the Alliance’s capability targets rather than supplying Ukraine with more equipment, he made it clear last year that he considered a defeat by Ukraine to be more dangerous than NATO countries stocking weapons caches according to plan.

Most recently, Stoltenberg invited the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj to the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania. “We look forward to meeting President Zelenskyy at our summit in Vilnius in July,” he said in early April. The NATO summit will be organized in Lithuania’s capital on July 11-12. It is still unclear whether the president of the country attacked by Russia will actually come.

Ukraine on the way to NATO?

Also at the foreign ministers’ meeting in early April, Stoltenberg announced a new support program for the planned NATO membership. The multi-year initiative is intended to make it easier for the country to adapt to alliance standards and enable seamless cooperation with NATO.

So far, however, there is no precise timeline for Ukraine’s accession. When announcing the new program, Stoltenberg merely pointed out that it was a common NATO position for Ukraine to become a member. He was playing on a summit declaration from 2008. With regard to Ukraine and Georgia, it says: “We agreed today that these countries would become members of NATO.”

However, Stoltenberg indirectly ruled out Ukraine’s accession in times of war. He pointed out that NATO membership requires Ukraine to survive the war as a democratic, independent nation.