“Some are questioning whether the United States and other NATO allies should continue to stand with Ukraine as we enter the second winter of Putin’s brutality. But the answer here today at NATO is clear, and it is unwavering. We must and we will continue to support Ukraine,” Blinken said during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
Since the war began, the United States has provided about $77 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial and military aid, according to Blinken. He noted that Washington’s European allies have provided more than $110 billion in support of Kyiv.
Ukraine’s path to NATO membership was discussed during Wednesday’s first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council. Blinken also held separate talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
The top U.S. diplomat said the allies reaffirmed their policy that “Ukraine will become a member of NATO when all allies agree and when conditions are met.”
In a separate press conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the member state laid out recommendations to Ukraine’s reforms.
“Ukraine is closer to NATO than ever before. We will continue to support them on the path to membership and will continue to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters.
The United States is hosting the next NATO summit in Washington from July 9 to 11, 2024. Blinken discussed priorities for the meeting with his counterparts as the alliance celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.
A senior U.S. official told reporters that a significant portion of the discussions leading up to the Washington summit would aim to ensure that Ukraine is making the necessary progress toward “ultimate membership” in NATO “when conditions are right.”
The bloc’s member states have suggested to Ukraine “a set of governance reforms,” including strengthening anti-corruption agencies and authorities.
The NATO-Ukraine Council was inaugurated at the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other heads of member governments also in attendance.
It convened for the second time in late July to discuss Black Sea security following Russia’s withdrawal from a deal overseeing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
The third meeting was held in October to discuss substantial assistance to Ukraine and to ensure Ukraine’s forces are fully interoperable with NATO.
The NATO-Ukraine Council is the joint body where allies and Ukraine sit as equal participants to advance political dialogue.
Wednesday afternoon, Blinken leads the U.S. delegation to NATO member North Macedonia, which is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, in its capital, Skopje.
Blinken said he is supporting OSCE’s “determination” to “advance European security,” despite “Russia’s flagrant violations.”
Blinken is slated to hold talks with North Macedonia Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani before heading to the Middle East later in the evening.
Bulgaria has given permission for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s plane to cross its airspace enroute to Skopje following North Macedonia’s request, allowing him to attend the OSCE ministerial meetings.
This has sparked an immediate outcry from Ukraine and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who will boycott the gathering due to Lavrov’s expected attendance.
“We obviously respect every country’s ability to make its decision about whether they should attend or not. We think it’s a useful forum to engage with OSCE members and are going to attend for that reason,” a senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
When asked if Blinken would have any encounter with Lavrov during the OSCE meetings, the official said, “We do not expect one.”
After Skopje, Blinken will make his third trip to the Middle East since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. The U.S. is seeking an extension of the Israel-Hamas truce to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza and getting more hostages released.