Secretary General in Kyiv: Ukraine is closer to NATO than ever before
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Kyiv on Thursday (28 September 2023), underscoring NATO’s powerful support for Ukraine in talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government. Calling Kyiv “a city with a special place in the hearts of the free world,” Mr Stoltenberg paid tribute to President Zelenskyy’s leadership and the heroism of the Ukrainian armed forces, welcoming that Ukraine is “gradually gaining ground” in its hard-fought counteroffensive.
“Ukrainians are fighting for their families, their future, their freedom; Moscow is fighting for imperial delusions,” said the Secretary General. He welcomed that Ukraine has strong backing from all NATO Allies and many partners in the Ukraine Defence Contact Group – with more than 50 nations providing support and supplies. He further noted that over 140 nations stood up for Ukraine’s sovereignty at the United Nations. “Meanwhile, Russia is diminished on the world stage, cut off from international markets, staying home from international summits, and reduced to seeking arms from regimes like Iran and North Korea,” he said.
Mr Stoltenberg welcomed that all Allies have agreed that Ukraine will join NATO, and pointed to three historic decisions taken at the Vilnius Summit to help make this a reality. "First, we shortened your path to NATO from two to one step by removing the requirement for a Membership Action Plan," he said. “Second, we agreed a programme to make Ukraine’s forces fully interoperable with your future Allies,” he added. “Third, we strengthened our political ties to an unprecedented level, by establishing the NATO-Ukraine Council – a body where we can consult and take decisions together.” The Secretary General stressed: “these three decisions mean that Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before.”
The Secretary General also underlined that NATO Allies continue to provide high-end capabilities to help push back the invasion, including modern tanks, sophisticated missile systems, and air defences, as well as training for F-16 pilots. “This is a collective effort by all NATO Allies,” he said, noting that of nearly one hundred billion euros in military support committed to Ukraine since last year, around half has come from European NATO Allies and Canada. He further welcomed Ukraine’s plans to jointly produce weapons systems with the United States, and said he looked forward to further encouraging news from Friday’s International Defence Industry Forum in Kyiv, which will see participation from NATO and over 20 countries. Saying that “there is no defence without industry,” Mr Stoltenberg noted that NATO has been conducting joint procurement for years, and is now stepping up even more, including with major procurements of ammunition.
"The stronger Ukraine becomes, the closer we come to ending Russia’s aggression," said Mr Stoltenberg. “Russia could lay down arms and end its war today; Ukraine does not have that option,” he said. “Ukraine’s surrender would not mean peace, it would mean brutal Russian occupation. Peace at any price would be no peace at all. Ukraine needs a just and sustainable peace, and I therefore strongly welcome President Zelenskyy’s ten-point plan to achieve that goal." He concluded by saying: “Ukraine’s future is in NATO. As we work together to prepare you for that future, NATO will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
While in Kyiv, the Secretary General laid a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen for Ukraine, paying tribute to all those who have suffered and sacrificed in defence of their homeland.
This was Mr Stoltenberg’s fifth trip to Ukraine as NATO Secretary General, and his second since Russia’s full-scale invasion.