But he stressed the main focus of Nato at the moment is to ensure that Ukraine prevails against Russia’s illegal invasion.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the allies’ Ukraine defence contact group at Ramstein air base in Germany, he told reporters that once the war ends Kyiv must have “the deterrence to prevent new attacks”.
Nato leaders said in 2008 that Ukraine would join the alliance one day, and Mr Stoltenberg has repeated that promise throughout the war, though the organisation has established no pathway or timetable for membership.
It comes after Mr Stoltenberg yesterday pledged continued support for the country during his first visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion just over a year ago. “Let me be clear, Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family,” he told a news conference.
“Ukraine’s rightful place is in Nato.” So far, Nato allies have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops and have provided £57 billion of military aid alone.
However the alliance has no official presence in Ukraine and provides only non-lethal support to Kyiv.
There is still some hesitation from members of the alliance about Ukraine joining.
German defence minister Boris Pistorious said “the door is open a crack” but he added that it was “not the time to decide that now”.
The minister said Nato must “carefully” weigh any step towards including Ukraine in the alliance.
“You have to decide with a cool head and a hot heart and not vice versa,” he added.
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who has appealed to Nato for aid in persuading some member states to supply advanced fighter jets, long-range rockets and armoured vehicles, said he was grateful for an invitation to a Nato summit in July in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, but urged that his country should be given a roadmap for becoming a member.
“The time has come for the leaders to define the prospects of Ukraine’s acquisition of Nato membership, to define the algorithm of Ukraine’s movement towards this goal, and to define security guarantees for our state for the period of such movement — that is, for the period before Nato membership,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call yesterday that preventing Ukraine from joining Nato remains one of the goals of what Moscow calls its “special military operation.”
He warned that Ukraine’s accession would pose a “serious, significant threat to our country, to our country’s security.”Finland joined the alliance earlier this month.