NATO OTAN
© Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky
However, Kiev wants the bloc to acknowledge its role as a "cornerstone" of European security
Ukraine has accepted that NATO membership is off the table, and will not take any further steps toward joining the US-led military bloc, Igor Zhovkva, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the Financial Times on Saturday. Nevertheless, Kiev wants a say in NATO's policy making.

The bloc's leaders are set to meet in the Spanish capital of Madrid next week. During two days of meetings and consultations, the organization will unveil its Strategic Concept - a document that outlines its mission and stance toward perceived threats, including China and Russia.

Zhovkva told the Financial Times that Zelensky's government wants NATO to acknowledge that Ukraine is "a cornerstone of European security," and to reaffirm its partnership with Kiev, first established in 1997.

However, he said that Ukraine will not push to become a member of the bloc.

"Nato members have declined our aspirations. We will not do anything else in this regard," he said.

Ukraine's prospective membership was a key factor behind the current conflict with Russia. The previous Petro Poroshenko-led government added the goal of becoming a NATO member to the country's constitution in 2019, despite Moscow's warnings that having the bloc's forces and weapons on its border would constitute an unacceptable security threat.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has insisted that membership remains open for interested nations, but has not promised or ruled out accession for Ukraine in the near term. Under the 2008 Bucharest Declaration, NATO's official position is that Georgia and Ukraine "will become members of NATO" at an unspecified future date.

NATO's Strategic Concept has not been updated since 2010. That version of the document states that the alliance seeks "a true strategic partnership" with Russia.

Zhovkva wants NATO to purge any mention of Russia as a "partner" from the coming update.

"We expect in the Nato strategic concept . . . there will be more strict and severe warnings to the Russian aggressor," he said, urging the alliance "don't be shy" in inserting anti-Russian text.

Furthermore, Zhovkva said that he wants the Ukrainian conflict to be described in the strategy document, arguing "it's not enough just to cross out the word 'partner.'"

Ukraine joining NATO 'has never been on the table' - Spain

NATO has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to take part in its upcoming summit in Madrid, but that does not mean that the bloc plans to invite Kiev to join its ranks any time soon, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told the newspaper El Pais on Sunday.

The question of inviting Ukraine to enter NATO is not being raised, the minister said, when asked if the military bloc would keep its door open for Kiev to join "in the mid-term." "It has never been on the table, nor is it now," he added.

NATO's eastward expansion was cited by Russia as one of the reasons for launching its offensive against Ukraine in February. The Kremlin demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led organization.

Earlier this week, Zelensky adviser Aleksey Arestovich stated that Ukraine is "de facto" already a part of NATO, pointing to promises by Western nations to help it "win" the conflict with Russia.

Had Zelensky decided to take part in the upcoming Madrid summit personally, "we would have welcomed him with open arms," the Spanish defense minister said, adding that the Ukrainian leader would participate via video link.

The EU and NATO only want "peace to return to Ukraine and Europe as soon as possible," Albares noted, adding, however, that all the measures taken by the EU nations and their "transatlantic allies" are aimed at making Moscow's forces return to Russian territory.

Western nations have been supplying Ukraine with various arms and military equipment almost since the start of the offensive. Moscow has repeatedly warned that such supplies to Kiev would only prolong the conflict.

When asked if the West should encourage Zelensky to reach a ceasefire with Russia by making some concessions, Albares said that Ukraine was a sovereign nation and can make decisions for itself.

His words came ahead of next week's NATO summit in Madrid, at which the military bloc is expected to define its new strategy concept. NATO's chief, Jens Stoltenberg, earlier said that in its next policy update the bloc would for the first time declare Russia not a partner but a threat.

The Baltic nations and Poland also plan to use the occasion to request a massive NATO buildup on its eastern flank - something Moscow has long defined as a threat to its security.