Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a video to social media Friday that shows him signing a formal bid for an accelerated membership with NATO, a Western alliance.
Zelenskyy said in a statement that accompanied the video:
De facto, we have already made our way to NATO. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.
This followed Russia’s annexation of four more Ukrainian territories.
But when asked during a briefing whether the alliance would move quickly on the application, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg demurred, VOA News reported. Stoltenberg told reporters:
Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion.
That is the main focus and the main effort of NATO allies as we speak.
He added saying such support would be forthcoming for as long as it takes.
Officials with NATO and NATO member countries have long said that sovereign nations, like Ukraine, should have the freedom to seek membership in the alliance.
There has been no rush, however, to grant Ukraine full membership.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday:
Our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical on-the-ground support in Ukraine, and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time.
Russia has repeatedly called the possibility of NATO expansion an existential threat while arguing prior to its invasion of Ukraine in February that Ukrainian membership in NATO would be a provocation.
Western and U.S. officials, though, argue Russia’s actions have had the opposite effect, with Sweden and Finland moving to join NATO in July.
The U.S. Senate approved NATO membership for the two countries in August. Only Hungary and Turkey still must ratify their applications for membership.