After meeting with French leader Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 24, Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda noted that the French president understands that NATO’s summit in Vilnius must send a clear message that Ukraine is moving closer to the Alliance.
“It is really important, as we both understand it, to send a clear message on Ukraine’s move toward NATO. The Vilnius summit will be very important in this sense,” Nauseda said. “We should not postpone these decisions to other NATO summits, but take steps now,” he added.
While a concrete wording has yet to be agreed upon, France’s commitment to support Ukraine militarily, politically and economically is strong, according to Nauseda. Ukraine should be brought closer to NATO through practical cooperation, such as joint exercises, sharing of experience, and other forms of communication, he stated.
At the Élysée Palace, the Lithuanian president also discussed the defence of the Baltic region, including the need to transform NATO’s Baltic air policing mission into a defence mission. He explained the importance of proposing a rotational model of air defense. The issue had already been discussed with the German chancellor and the Dutch prime minister. Nauseda said he told the Élysée Palace that Ukraine’s experience in defending itself against Russia’s offensive had shown the importance of air defence systems and that the Baltic states found the air policing mission insufficient. The president said that the first step is to take stock of what individual countries have and can provide to the Baltic region, but it is too early to talk about more concrete support.
The trip to Paris is part of a series of visits by Nauseda to NATO capitals in the run-up to the Alliance’s summit in Vilnius scheduled for July 11-12. Ukraine expects to get a clear message at the Vilnius summit that it will become part of NATO, but understands that it will not receive an invitation to join the Alliance while the war is ongoing.
Lithuania and other NATO eastern members are making efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the Alliance’s structures through practical cooperation and a clearer political commitment on membership prospects.