Ukraine’s defence minister said his country is now a de facto member of NATO, dealing another blow to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who partly justified his invasion by saying he was trying to stop Ukraine getting closer to the military alliance.
Oleksii Reznikov told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Friday that NATO’s support for Ukraine meant “Ukraine as a country, and the armed forces of Ukraine, became [a] member of NATO.”
Ukraine formally applied to join NATO in September, and it could take years for it to become an actual member, even if the war ends and existing members agree to it joining. But NATO members have furnished Ukraine with billions of dollars in weaponry and aid, and have embraced the country since the war began.
Reznikov also said that his comments would not be controversial to NATO or Russia: “Why [would it be] controversial? It’s true. It’s a fact,” he said.
Ukraine had been trying to join the military alliance for years before Russia’s invasion in February, but had not been accepted to start the process.
Putin partly justified his invasion of Ukraine by saying that he was worried NATO was expanding towards Russia’s borders, including into Ukraine.
Putin’s invasion has, ironically, pushed Ukraine and NATO closer together, and also led to two other European countries — Sweden and Finland — taking further steps to join the alliance.
Reznikov also noted that Western nations are now giving Ukraine their most advanced weapons yet.
This includes tanks, which Ukraine has requested since the start of the year but that allies had avoided giving until recently, fearing Russian escalation in return.
Reznikov said he was sure that Ukraine would receive more “tanks, fighting aircrafts or jets, and long-range weaponry” because “things were changing” in Western countries.
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