Asked if Georgia and Ukraine joining the NATO would exacerbate relations with Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “it is the right for any sovereign nation to decide its own path.”
Speaking at an event hosted by Brookings Institution and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the Secretary General rebuffed on October 5 the notion that Russia’s small neighbors joining NATO would be a “provocation” to Moscow as “absolutely wrong.”
He said that the message that it was provocative for Russia that Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to join the NATO “just exemplifies” that Russia wants a world order where they have a sphere of influence.
“That’s not the world I would like to live in,” noted the Secretary General. “And actually I fight for decades to move away from that world.”
“It’s only for NATO members and Georgia and Ukraine to decide when they’re ready to join. Not Russia,” highlighted Secretary General Stoltenberg, adding that NATO supports the two countries’ efforts to modernize and meet the standards of the alliance.
“When 30 Allies agree that they are ready to join, they will join,” he said, adding “I cannot tell you when that will happen, but that’s the only way that this can be dealt with.”
Noting “it’s obvious that it won’t happen tomorrow,” the Secretary General said his message to NATO Allies, and something he discussed with U.S. President Joe Biden, is that they “need to step up and do more for those aspirant countries.”
He stressed the need to provide Georgia and Ukraine with “more support, more training, more capacity building, help to implement reforms, fight corruption and build the security and defense institutions.”
NATO’s Stoltenberg highlighted “there is a lot in between nothing and full membership,” adding he hopes “we can make some ambitious decisions at the next NATO Summit.”
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- Georgia in NATO Secretary General’s Annual Report