The Eastern flank countries of NATO expect that the alliance summit in Vilnius on July 11-12 will provide a clearer path for Ukraine's membership in the alliance once the russia-fueled war in Ukraine comes to an end. This was stated by representatives of the nine Eastern European countries of the Bucharest Nine (Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Latvia) at the summit in Bratislava, as reported by Voice of America.
"We expect that in Vilnius, we will upgrade our political relations with Ukraine to a new level, and launch a new political track that will lead to Ukraine’s membership in NATO, once conditions allow", - the Bucharest Nine's joint statement said.
The presidents of Eastern NATO countries, most of which border Ukraine or russia, met with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday as a sign of further support for Ukraine's closer alignment with NATO.
"We are in favor of strengthening relations with Ukraine in terms of concrete practical assistance, but also in terms of Ukraine's rapprochement with NATO", - said Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová during a teleconference. "We do not see this as NATO's encroachment on russia".
According to the Slovak president, NATO members will receive guarantees that russia will not attempt to conquer other neighboring countries.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda told journalists that while nine Eastern European countries unanimously support Ukraine's NATO membership, obtaining support from other NATO allies is "problematic".
"In the remaining weeks, we must find a way to take a big step forward and not disappoint the expectations of Ukraine and its supporters", - Nausėda said. "Simply repeating that NATO's doors are open will not be enough".
The statement reminds that NATO allies have not yet been able to reach a consensus on the speed of Ukraine's possible accession to the alliance. In Ukraine, it is also acknowledged that it is unlikely for the country to join NATO as long as the war continues. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with European leaders in Moldova, where he called on NATO to provide security guarantees if membership in the alliance is currently not possible. Some NATO countries fear that a hasty step could bring the alliance closer to direct confrontation with russia.