Lithuanian president warns Russia will be given free hand if Ukraine denied NATO accession
Gitanas Nauseda (Photo: EPA)

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has called on NATO leaders to support Ukraine in its aspirations to become a NATO member, as an invitation to join the Alliance will inspire Ukrainians to resist, and the Kremlin will recognize refusal of such an invitation as weakness, he said in an interview with Reuters.

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Nausėda advised NATO allies not to attach importance to fears that Ukraine's accession to NATO could "provoke Russia" into doing something.

"We should not hesitate to take bolder decisions because otherwise the Putin regime will decide that the Western allies are too weak, (that they should be) pushed to the corner and they will surrender," he said.

At the same time, it is important that "a stronger wording on Ukraine's (membership) perspective would for sure increase the fighting spirit of Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield."

Nausėda believes that the Vilnius summit may promise to facilitate Ukraine's accession to NATO after the war and provide it with additional military assistance.

"We all understand that right now, in the midst of the war, Ukraine is not able to join NATO immediately. We understand that. Ukrainians understand that. But we need to create procedures, how to proceed ... so there is no wasting of time if the war is over and victory is on Ukrainian side," the Lithuanian president stated.

Nausėda also said that he expects Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius.

"I hope he will be here and he will play an important role in the decision making in Vilnius," the president emphasized.

German Chancellor Scholz does not believe that Ukraine will join NATO in the near future, and the German Defense Minister admitted that the Alliance may agree to grant Ukraine a simplified accession procedure.

The United Kingdom has stated that it will support Ukraine's accession to NATO under a simplified procedure.

Le Monde believes that France may support Ukraine's accession to NATO "to teach the Kremlin a lesson."

On July 3, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis calls for Ukraine to be invited to join the Alliance "clearly and irrevocably" at the NATO summit in Vilnius.

On July 4, President Zelenskyy called on US President Joe Biden to back Ukraine's invitation to NATO now, with the accession procedure starting after Russia's invasion ends.