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NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance launched after World War II as a counter against Soviet aggression in Europe. The announcement occurs as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its seventh month.
“Ukraine was and remains a leader in negotiation efforts. It was our state that always offered Russia to reach an agreement on coexistence on equal, honest, decent and fair terms,” Zelensky said in a video message. “It is obvious that this is impossible with this Russian president. He does not know what dignity and honesty are. Therefore, we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but already with another president of Russia.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially revealed on Friday that he would annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine after residents voted to join his nation. The referendum, which local Ukrainian officials said was coerced by Russian soldiers, took place earlier this week, with results in each region appearing to be strikingly lopsided in favor of Russia.
“The Kremlin’s sham referenda are a futile effort to mask what amounts to a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Thursday statement. “To be clear: the results were orchestrated in Moscow and do not reflect the will of the people of Ukraine.”
Member states of NATO sent thousands of troops to neighboring eastern European countries in February after Putin ordered the invasion. The United States has sent more than $9.8 billion in civilian and military assistance to Ukraine over the past several months. USAID Administrator Samantha Power remarked earlier this year that as the “assault on Ukraine’s public services continues, the United States is rushing in with financial support to help the government keep the lights on, provide essential services to innocent citizens and pay the health care workers who are providing lifesaving support on the frontlines.”
On Thursday evening, the Senate approved more than $12 billion in additional aid for Ukraine. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives must advance the bill to President Joe Biden by Friday night, which marks the end of the current fiscal year.
Ukraine’s application to join NATO also comes days after the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system saw “unprecedented” damage. As fuel poured into the Baltic Sea, some European leaders began pointing fingers at Russia, which had severed flow through the pipelines one month earlier, as well as the United States. Germany, the continent’s largest economy, relied upon Russian natural gas for 55% of its imports before the beginning of the conflict.
“The destruction that occurred on the same day simultaneously on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented,” Nord Stream AG, the Russian company that operates the pipelines, said in a statement. “It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transport infrastructure.”
After Russia invaded Ukraine, other European countries — including Sweden and Finland — pursued membership in NATO. The parliament of Slovakia approved the entry of the two Nordic nations into the alliance, becoming one of the last governments to ratify the expansion. Hungary and Turkey have not yet greenlit the move.