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NATO Commits to Ukraine Membership     11/29 06:08

   NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed the military alliance's 
commitment to Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that the war-torn nation will one day 
become a member of the world's largest security organization.

   BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg 
reaffirmed the military alliance's commitment to Ukraine on Tuesday, saying 
that the war-torn nation will one day become a member of the world's largest 
security organization.

   Stoltenberg's remarks came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his 
NATO counterparts gathered in Romania to drum up urgently needed support for 
Ukraine aimed at ensuring that Moscow fails to defeat the country as it 
bombards energy infrastructure.

   "NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg said. "Russia does not have a veto" on 
countries joining, he said in reference to the recent entry of North Macedonia 
and Montenegro into the security alliance. He said that Russian President 
Vladimir Putin "will get Finland and Sweden as NATO members" soon. The Nordic 
neighbors applied for membership in April, concerned that Russia might target 
them next.

   "We stand by that, too, on membership for Ukraine," the former Norwegian 
prime minister said.

   In essence, Stoltenberg repeated a vow made by NATO leaders in Bucharest in 
2008 -- in the same sprawling Palace of the Parliament where the foreign 
ministers are meeting this week -- that Ukraine, and also Georgia, would join 
the alliance one day.

   Some officials and analysts believe this move -- pressed on the NATO allies 
by former U.S. President George W. Bush -- was partly responsible for the war 
that Russia launched on Ukraine in February. Stoltenberg disagreed.

   "President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign 
decisions that are not a threat to Russia," he said. "I think what he's afraid 
of is democracy and freedom, and that's the main challenge for him."

   Even so, Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon. With the Crimean Peninsula 
annexed, and Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists holding parts of the 
south and east, it's not clear what Ukraine's borders would even look like.

   Many of NATO's 30 allies believe the focus now must solely be on defeating 
Russia, and Stoltenberg stressed that any attempt to move ahead on membership 
could divide them.

   "We are in the midst of a war and therefore we should do nothing that can 
undermine the unity of allies to provide military, humanitarian, financial 
support to Ukraine, because we must prevent President Putin from winning," he 

   During the two-day meeting, Blinken will announce substantial U.S. aid for 
Ukraine's energy grid, U.S. officials said. Ukraine's network has been battered 
countrywide since early October by targeted Russian strikes, in what U.S. 
officials call a Russian campaign to weaponize the coming winter cold.

   "We are all paying a price for Russia's war against Ukraine. But the price 
we pay is in money," Stoltenberg said Tuesday, "while the price Ukrainians pay 
is a price paid in blood."

   The meeting in Romania -- which shares NATO's longest land border with 
Ukraine -- is likely to see NATO make fresh pledges of nonlethal support to 
Ukraine: fuel, generators, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone-jamming 

   Individual allies are also likely to announce fresh supplies of military 
equipment for Ukraine -- chiefly the air defense systems that Kyiv so 
desperately seeks to protect its skies -- but NATO, as an organization, will 
not, to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia.

   The ministers will hold a working dinner with their Ukrainian counterpart, 
Dmytro Kuleba, on Tuesday evening.

   The foreign ministers of NATO candidates Finland and Sweden are joining the 
talks. NATO is eager to add the two Scandinavian nations to the defensive 
forces lined up against Russia. Turkey and Hungary are the holdouts on 
ratifying their applications. The 28 other member nations have already done so.

   On Wednesday, the ministers will also address ways to step up support for 
partners who officials have said are facing Russian pressure -- Bosnia, 
Georgia, and Moldova.

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