Pentagon Chief Leaves Open Possibility of Ukraine Reapplying for NATO Membership

Ukraine's alignment with the Western military alliance was one of Russia's primary motives for invading

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin left open the possibility of Kyiv reapplying for a NATO membership even though one of Russia’s primary motives for invading Ukraine was the country’s alignment with the military alliance.

“I think that NATO will always stand by its principles of maintaining an open door, so I don’t want to speculate on what could come,” Austin said after leading a meeting on Ukraine of 40 nations at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

“I do believe that in the future, if the possibility exists, I think Ukraine will seek to, once again, apply to become a member of NATO. But again, that’s probably a bit down the road,” Austin added.

In the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow delivered a series of security proposals to the US and NATO. Chief among them was a request for a guarantee that Ukraine won’t ever join NATO, but the US wouldn’t entertain the Russian demand.

Back in January, President Biden admitted that Ukraine wouldn’t be joining NATO anytime soon, but he still refused to make the promise. After Russia invaded, Ukrainian President Voldymr Zelensky said at one point he was told that Ukraine won’t be joining NATO, but that the door would be left open publicly.

“I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” Zelensky said on March 20. “And the response was very clear, you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open.”

Realistically, Ukraine has no chance of joining NATO while it is fighting a war with Russia. But Austin’s comments signal that the Biden administration isn’t changing its approach.

In peace talks with Ukraine, one of Moscow’s key demands for a ceasefire was for Kyiv to declare its neutrality. Instead of pushing for a diplomatic solution, the Biden administration is pledging more and more arms for Ukraine. At the meeting in Germany, Austin vowed to move “heaven and earth” to get more weapons into Kyiv’s hands.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.