3 October 2022
Nine Central and Eastern European countries have given their backing to Ukraine's bid to join NATO and urged the Western alliance to provide Kyiv with more weapons to defend itself against invading Russian forces. Hungary and Bulgaria were noticeably absent from the signatories.
The statement, published on the website of the Polish president on 2 October, was signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The leaders demanded that Russia immediately withdraw from all the occupied territories, and they also called on all allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine.
The joint statement came two days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on 30 September that Ukraine had applied for accession to NATO under an accelerated procedure. That announcement came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia was annexing Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya (see NATO Watch Update 30), a move the West has described as an illegal land-grab.
"We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory," the statement by the nine leaders said. It also said the leaders "firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership".
At their 2008 summit, NATO member states welcomed Ukraine and Georgia's aspirations to join, but declined to provide a clear timeline for the two countries’ possible ascension. As that process stalled over the years, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Ukraine’s bid would be realised. On 2 October, an adviser to President Zelensky tweeted that 10 NATO countries supported Ukraine’s membership to the alliance — including many countries that used to belong to the former Soviet bloc. However, many NATO countries have hesitated at including a new member that is in an armed conflict with Russia, although in recent months applications from two new countries in Europe – Finland and Sweden – have been welcomed.
Asked about Ukraine's NATO bid, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told US TV that "any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus; all 30 allies have to agree to make such a decision". Stoltenberg also said Ukraine’s capture of the city of Lyman, which is in Donetsk, was proof that Ukrainians are making progress and able to push back against Russian forces.
Meanwhile, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht announced that 16 wheeled armoured howitzers produced in Slovakia would be delivered to Ukraine next year. The weapons will be financed jointly with Denmark, Norway and Germany.