President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that Ukraine has applied to join Nato as Russia’s war continues.
Vladimir Putin is vehemently opposed to Ukraine joining the Western alliance, seeing it as a threat to Russia’s borders.
Ukraine already has ties with Nato and has previously applied for membership, but is yet to be formally admitted.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Will Ukraine join Nato?
President Zelensky said on Friday that Ukraine was formally applying for fast-track membership of the Nato military alliance and that Kyiv was ready for talks with Moscow, but not with Putin.
The Ukrainian leader made his comments in a video that appeared to be intended as a forceful rebuttal to the Kremlin after Putin held a ceremony in Moscow to proclaim four partially occupied Ukrainian regions as annexed Russian land.
“We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine’s application for accelerated accession to NATO,” President Zelensky said in a video on Telegram.
The video showed him announcing the membership bid and then signing a document flanked by his prime minister and the speaker of parliament.
The announcement was likely to touch a nerve in Moscow, which casts the Nato bloc as a hostile military alliance bent on encroaching Russia’s sphere of influence and trying to destroy it.
In his video speech, President Zelensky accused Russia of brazenly rewriting history and redrawing borders “using murder, blackmail, mistreatment and lies,” something he said Kyiv would not allow.
However, he said that Kyiv remained committed to the idea of co-existence with Russia “on equal, honest, dignified and fair conditions”.
“Clearly, with this Russian president it is impossible. He does not know what dignity and honesty are,” President Zelensky said. “Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia.”
What is Nato?
Nato stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and is also known as the North Atlantic Alliance.
Its headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
There are currently 30 countries in Nato: 27 in Europe, two in North America, and one in Eurasia.
Here are the countries, along with the year they joined:
- Albania (2009)
- Belgium (1949)
- Bulgaria (2004)
- Canada (1949)
- Croatia (2009)
- Czech Republic (1999)
- Denmark (1949)
- Estonia (2004)
- France (1949)
- Germany (1955)
- Greece (1952)
- Hungary (1999)
- Iceland (1949)
- Italy (1949)
- Latvia (2004)
- Lithuania (2004)
- Luxembourg (1949)
- Montenegro (2017)
- Netherlands (1949)
- North Macedonia (2020)
- Norway (1949)
- Poland (1999)
- Portugal (1949)
- Romania (2004)
- Slovakia (2004)
- Slovenia (2004)
- Spain (1982)
- Turkey (1952)
- United Kingdom (1949)
- United States (1949)
Nato was officially founded in April 1949 in Washington, DC.
It was born from the Treaty of Dunkirk, which was signed by the UK and France in March 1947 as an alliance against any possible German or Soviet Union attack in the wake of the Second World War.
Its stated purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.
It uses a system of collective security, whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. It may also ally with external forces.
How do countries usually join Nato?
Nato says its membership is open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles” of its treaty and to “contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”.
Countries who wish to join Nato must follow a membership action plan – an application process that involves outlining security and political policies.
The membership action plan helps “aspiring members prepare for membership and meet key requirements by providing practical advice and targeted assistance”.
But it can be a lengthy undertaking.
North Macedonia took 20 years to complete the plan before it joined Nato in 2020.
Why doesn’t Russia want Ukraine to join Nato?
Russia strongly opposes Nato’s expansion to include Ukraine, and has demanded a formal veto on it ever becoming a member.
President Putin has made clear that he sees the country’s aspirations to join the group as a threat to Russia’s borders and its sphere of influence.
Five Nato countries currently border Russia after former Soviet states Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania became members.
In December last year, Putin said Russia will seek “reliable and long-term security guarantees” from the US and its allies “that would exclude any further Nato moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory”.
In an angry televised address from the Kremlin in February, President Putin added: “Ukraine is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space. These are our comrades, those dearest to us – not only colleagues, friends and people who once served together, but also relatives, people bound by blood, by family ties.”