Ukraine, NATO Negotiations Should Begin Immediately: Lithuania

Lithuania's defense ministry is pushing for NATO membership negotiations to begin immediately, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas on Saturday said Ukraine would have the nation's "unconditional support, even if it seems to be an unattainable goal," according to the Baltic Times.

"The key thing is not the simplified NATO admission procedures applied in Sweden and Finland's case, but the consensus of 30 countries that [Ukraine] can be admitted to NATO and that the process itself must start, despite the war," Anusauskas said.

Lithuania's support comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked to accelerate Ukraine's application to NATO on Friday, just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the Kremlin had annexed four regions in Ukraine.

Lithuania Ukraine NATO Membership
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas speaks during a press conference in Klaipeda, Lithuania, on August 22, 2022. Anusauskas said Ukraine has Lithuania's "unconditional support" for its request of an "accelerated accession" into NATO. Petras Malukas/AFP

NATO is unlikely to accept Ukraine's entry to the alliance while it is in a state of war because membership would compel fellow member nations to actively militarily defend Ukraine against Russia, and potentially ignite a world war.

NATO membership requires the unanimous approval of all 30 member nations.

Despite the repercussions that would come from granting membership to Ukraine, Anusauskas said that the West "cannot remain in the same position as they were when the war started."

"Security guarantees for Ukraine must be increased now," he said, as Putin vowed to use all of his powers to defend the four occupied territories—Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia—in Ukraine as part of Russia.

While some nations have been hesitant about taking a harder line against Putin, Baltic countries like Lithuania have moved swiftly against the Kremlin for ifs invasion of Ukraine, citing parallels between World War II and today's events in eastern Europe.

"These events in Ukraine closely follow the scenario which was tried in the Baltics in 1940," Anusauskas told Reuters over the weekend, referring to Lithuania's incorporation into the Soviet Union "There is the sham self-determination, there is the festive ceremony in Kremlin, and then the annexation.

"In the scenario, what follows is terror and exploitation of local resources. Which in this case are the people, which after the annexation will be sent to die in the war."

But when asked whether she backed Ukraine's entry to NATO, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to explicitly back Ukraine's bid, telling Politico, "Let's win this war. But I would be for them having a security guarantee," instead.

Although U.S. lawmakers have stopped short of backing Ukraine's request for "accelerated accession" to join NATO, President Joe Biden announced that he would impose additional sanctions on Moscow in response to the annexation.

Last week, the New York Times reported that a U.S. general would lead a new operation in Germany to streamline military assistance for Ukrainian forces as part of Biden's long-term support plan for Ukraine.

Newsweek reached out to NATO for comment.