Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he’s applied for Ukraine to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Zelensky made the surprise application after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties on Friday to annex more occupied Ukrainian territory.
The move increases concern the West will be dragged into the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
According to the Washington Post, Putin vowed to protect the newly annexed regions of Ukraine by “all available means.”
In a ceremony in Kyiv, Zelenskyy signed papers he said were a formal NATO membership request.
As a member of NATO, Ukraine would be guaranteed defence on a legal basis.
But the declaration is largely symbolic unless NATO members accelerate Ukraine’s ability to enter the military alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said any democracy in Europe can apply to join NATO but did not indicate Ukraine would be accepted while at war, the Post reports.
“A decision on membership of course has to be taken by all 30 allies and we take these decisions by consensus,” Stoltenberg said. “Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.”
“The aim of President Putin is to stop us from supporting Ukraine,” he added. “But he will not succeed in that.”
Countries like Canada and the US have provided Ukraine with military equipment and financial funding, but no troops.
Putin has repeatedly said Ukraine joining NATO is a red line. He cited his concern over it as cause for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine eight months ago.
Whether NATO takes these proclamations seriously or not, Putin is likely to broadcast Zelensky’s move as justification for the continuation and escalation of the war — and even to further stoke nationalism in Russia.
The Russian president also urged Ukraine to sit down for peace talks but said the occupied regions aren’t up for debate.
Zelenskyy said there’d be no negotiations with Putin.
“We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but … with another president of Russia,” the Ukrainian leader said.