Stoltenberg Says Ukraine’s NATO Membership Uncertain Within 10 Years

Kiev must win in the conflict with Moscow in order to join, the bloc’s secretary-general has said

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said there is no guarantee that Ukraine will join NATO within the next decade. He stated that Ukraine’s membership depends on its success in the conflict with Russia.

In a CBS News interview on Sunday, Stoltenberg, who will step down in October, was asked to explain why he expects Ukraine to join the US-led military alliance by 2034, rather than within three years.

“Well, no one has said exactly 10 years but it’s obvious that it is a very serious issue to bring in Ukraine,” NATO’s top official noted, explaining that “Ukraine is now a country at war.”

He emphasized that NATO’s top priority is to “step up our support to Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine prevails. That’s a precondition for any future membership for Ukraine.”

In an interview with DPA news agency last week, Stoltenberg expressed hope that Kiev would become part of the bloc within a decade. His remarks came as Ukraine’s ambassador to NATO, Natalya Galibarenko, told Politico that Ukraine sought an “irreversible” membership offer at the bloc’s summit in Washington, scheduled for July 9 to 11.

NATO members initially agreed to Ukraine’s eventual membership in 2008 but did not provide a specific timeline. Following the Western-backed coup in Kiev in 2014, Ukraine fully committed to achieving membership. In the fall of 2022, it formally applied to join NATO after four of its former regions voted to become part of Russia.

However, NATO officials have repeatedly stated that Ukraine’s membership is not feasible while it is engaged in conflict with Russia, citing concerns about escalation.

Moscow perceives NATO’s expansion towards its borders as an existential threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Ukraine’s aspiration to join the bloc was a key factor in the conflict. Moscow has also maintained that Kiev’s neutrality is essential for achieving lasting peace with its neighbor.