Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
© John Moore/Getty ImagesUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky acknowledged during a meeting with university students in the city of Nikolaev on Wednesday that his country may never join NATO.

Originally elected on an anti-war pledge and now promising another wave of conscription, Zelensky was replying to a question about the future of Ukraine's national security. The Ukrainian president explained that he didn't know whether Ukraine would be able to join the US-led bloc.

"We don't know how it will turn out... No one will be able to answer that for sure. Either we will be in NATO, or we won't be in NATO. We want to, but..." the Ukrainian president responded.

On Wednesday in Brussels, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed that Ukraine can become a member of the bloc, "when allies agree and conditions are met." He added that "Ukraine is well on the path of NATO, as well as to the European Union, with the accession process, uh, beginning."

Ukraine made NATO membership a strategic goal of its foreign policy in 2017. In the autumn of 2022, Kiev gave its formal application to join the military bloc after four of its former regions voted to join Russia via referendums.

Russia has long viewed NATO's creeping expansion towards its borders as a major security threat. President Vladimir Putin has on numerous occasions stated that Ukraine joining NATO is absolutely unacceptable to Moscow, and has cited Kiev's potential accession to the bloc as one of the focal reasons for the current military operation.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov argued that the US-led military bloc has been aimed at deterring Russia as "a tool of confrontation" since its inception. He added that there are no signs that NATO will change that goal anytime soon, and neither will it stop "sacrificing" Ukrainians in its fight against Russia.