'NATO's door will remain open': US representative to NATO
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues into its third month, many are wondering what lies ahead for the future of NATO, a post-World War II alliance against Russia whose effectiveness is being tested under the very scenario it was designed to prevent.
On Tuesday, US Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Ambassador Julianne Smith spoke with reporters for a press briefing from the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, answering wide-ranging questions related to the crisis in Ukraine, including military support for Ukraine, relationships with allies outside Europe, accountability for Russian war crimes in Ukraine, and enlarging NATO membership for countries on and near the Russian border.
"Allies have been spending recent months and will spend the months ahead crafting a strategic concept that reflects adequately the security environment that NATO finds itself in," said Smith in her opening remarks to reporters, noting that this would be an important part of the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid in late June, which for the first time will include representatives from Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Australia.
Yet, she also clarified that the alliance is not planning on formally expanding across the Pacific.
She pointed out that "NATO is increasingly joining forces with other democratic partners around the world; we're looking for ways to bring some of these countries across the Pacific into our discussions first and foremost because they've provided very important support to Ukraine…"
Indeed, the security environment is rapidly changing as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues with no clear end in sight, causing Ukraine and other countries to rethink their security and strategies.
"It's important for us to hear directly from the Ukrainians firsthand what their assessment is of these fast-moving developments on the ground, and what more we can all do to help the Ukrainians in this moment," said Smith.
"And anytime we have an opportunity – as you know, President Zelenskyy was able to join us via video at the summit…" she added, further noting that there would be a separate session with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
As for holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for war crimes, Smith reiterated the US administration's position on the humanitarian situation, particularly following recent images of atrocities in Bucha.
"I think it's clear where the President and the Biden administration stands. They've said that we've seen war crimes, we've seen atrocities," she said.
"[W]hat we have to do is collect the information we need to hold Putin and his team in Moscow accountable... There of course is the ICC path; there is a United Nations option; there are multiple ways to do that."
The ambassador concluded her statements by emphasising NATO's open-door policy, which she said Russia has tried to get members to revisit in recent months.
"[Russia] sent a treaty requesting that NATO basically turn off the process of NATO enlargement, and the answer that came back in stereo surround-sound from all 30 Allies was: absolutely not. NATO's door will remain open, full stop," she said.