Officials in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia pledged support for Ukraine to join NATO “soon” during visits by President Volodymyr Zelensky to those member nations.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told reporters, “I am convinced that the future of Ukraine is in the European Union, the future of Ukraine is in NATO, and this will ensure that a situation like the one we are experiencing in Europe will not happen again.”
Ahead of the July 11-12 NATO summit, the so-called “Bucharest Nine” member nations—Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia—voiced support in June for Ukraine’s membership “once conditions allow.”
This week Slovak President Zuzana Caputova stated that she expects the summit to deepen cooperation between the alliance and Ukraine, possibly “in the form of the creation of a NATO-Ukraine Council.”
At a news conference in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, Zelensky expressed a desire for NATO nations to take concrete steps toward Ukraine joining the world’s largest military alliance at next week’s summit.
“There is strength in unity of NATO,” he said, adding that questions over Ukraine’s future in NATO—as well as Sweden’s pending membership—were “a threat to the alliance’s strength.”
In an interview aired Wednesday, Zelensky called on “decision-maker” President Biden to invite Ukraine to join NATO “now.”
Biden has not responded to Zelensky’s most recent plea, but in June Biden said the U.S. would not make it any easier for Ukraine to join NATO than any other nation, saying it must meet all the same standards as other member states—though a week earlier White House officials had said the President was “open to” waiving military and democratic reforms for Ukraine.
On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also reaffirmed his assertion that Ukraine would become a member—eventually.
“Our summit will send a clear message: NATO stands united, and Russia’s aggression will not pay,” he said.