- Ukraine applied to join NATO, but some members suggested it wait until the war with Russia ends.
- The prime minister of Lithuania told Insider why she thinks NATO-Ukraine negotiations should start immediately.
- She said that Russian threats are no reason for delay, as Russia has proven that it does not need a reason to escalate.
The prime minister of Lithuania told Insider that negotiations for Ukraine’s accession to NATO should begin immediately.
In an interview Thursday, Ingrida Simonetti said the frequent argument for not doing so — that Vladimir Putin might escalate his invasion in response — didn’t build up.
She said Putin had already escalated the conflict time and time again and did not need an excuse in the actions of his opponents to do so again.
But the largest members of NATO, including the United States and other nuclear-armed countries such as the United Kingdom and France, have been reluctant to sign. There is a frequent argument that such a move might aggravate the Russian invasion.
But imonytė argued that Russia had already demonstrated that its escalation was not rational.
“When we talk about Russia as an elevator in this situation, we must ask ourselves: Is there a need for a real excuse to escalate Russia? My answer is no,” she said.
“I mean, that’s an excuse they’ll probably use, but even without that excuse, it doesn’t mean the situation would be much different.”
Doubts about allowing Ukraine to join
President of Bulgaria He said He did not join the declaration of the nine countries because he believed that the decision on Ukraine’s membership should be made only after the end of the war with Russia.
He pointed to “the danger of direct involvement of NATO countries in the war.”
Once a country becomes a full member of NATO, all other members are obligated to respond to an attack on a member as if it were an attack on itself—making war on one member a war on all of them.
Similarly, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan He said He believes Ukraine’s request “should be taken up at a different time”.
Putin had previously been angered by the prospect of further NATO growth, and cited this fear as a reason for the invasion in February.
But Shimonetti said it was Russia that forced countries like hers to join NATO, creating the outcome she feared most.
They have been lying all the way about NATO expansion and saying ‘You are the ones who are pushing NATO’s borders near Russia’. No – countries like mine wanted to join NATO because of Russia.”
“It’s not because NATO just came and said ‘Hey, we want to be here’.”
Ukraine’s “moral debt”
It’s unclear how Ukraine will perform in the application – all 30 current members have to agree to allow a country to join, and the process can take years even for countries not at active war.
Chimonte said the earlier decision not to accept Ukraine helped create the current war. She said NATO’s assurances might deter Russia if Ukraine was a member.
Ukraine try to to join NATO in 2008, but Russia reacted angrily and halted the operation.
Shimonetti said she believes this was a “big mistake” that helped encourage Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, its long war in the Donbass region, and all-out war in 2022.
She said NATO owed a “sort of moral debt” for such errors that demanded a fuller response than providing current military assistance and training.
NATO previously said Ukraine needed other reforms to consider its membership – including a much stronger response to corruption.
Simonetti said she believed the start of negotiations would create a “very strong incentive” for any needed reform, saying it worked in her country, which joined in 2004.
“What I know from my country experience is that when you have a very clear goal, it is a very big motivation to change a country.”
“What Ukraine has shown is that they are really capable, very strong, very committed to the values we share as the basis for our coexistence. So why deny them the possibility of being part of the club?”
“There is no reason.”
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