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NATO chief says ‘door is open’ to Ukraine

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the “door is open” to admitting Ukraine into the security alliance and that the country would one day be a member.

Stoltenberg reaffirmed the commitment to bringing Ukraine into the western alliance and said Russian President Vladimir Putin would also have to contend with Finland and Sweden soon joining NATO after both countries applied in the wake of Russia’s late February invasion of Ukraine.

“President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign decisions that are not a threat to Russia,” Stoltenberg said in comments ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest, Romania. “I think what he’s afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that’s the main challenge for him.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he would apply for NATO membership in late September with the hope to fast-track the application process amid the ongoing war with Russia.

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Ukraine is unlikely to be admitted anytime soon. Stoltenberg said last month that all 30 members of the alliance must approve and reach a consensus, while the main priority for NATO at the moment was providing support for Ukraine’s war effort.

Finland and Sweden are waiting on just two nations to ratify membership. Along with Ukraine, all three countries will have representatives in Romania this week.

The meeting of foreign ministers in Romania is likely to result in new funding for Ukraine as the war heads into the winter months.

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Russia has pounded Ukrainian infrastructure, including energy grids, with missile strikes as it seeks to knock out power in cities across the country. NATO could announce additional nonlethal support for the nation, including generators and medical supplies.

Stoltenberg on Tuesday said, “We must prevent President Putin from winning.”

“We are all paying a price for Russia’s war against Ukraine,” he said. “But the price we pay is in money, while the price Ukrainians pay is a price paid in blood.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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