Ukraine has become a de facto member of the NATO alliance, the Ukrainian defense minister has said.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Western countries, are going to change their approach and start providing Ukraine with more heavy weapons such as tanks and fighter jets, despite the military alliance's reluctance to get embroiled in a wider conflict with Russia.
"Ukraine as a country, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine [AFU] became [a] member of Nato. De facto, not de jure (by law), [but] because we have weaponry, and the understanding of how to use it," Reznikov said.
He denied the assumption that his statement would cause discontent not only in Russia but also among NATO countries, emphasizing that the alliance is not a participant in Russia's war.
Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin still frames his invasion of Ukraine as an existential battle against Western countries, as the West has supplied Ukraine with weapons.
"Why would it be controversial? It's true. It's a fact," Reznikov said. "This concern about the next level of escalation, for me, is some kind of protocol."
He also expressed confidence that Ukraine will be provided with tanks, combat aircraft, and long-range rocket launchers from the West because Western countries have begun to change their attitude toward supplying weapons to the AFU.
Formal membership would require the rest of NATO to defend Ukraine -- and Russia has already warned of the risks of a nuclear conflict erupting.
Reflecting on the Feb. 24 second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that some 3.7 million people remain displaced within Ukraine.
Short of that, Western countries including the U.S. have been supplying armored fighting vehicles and rocketry to Ukraine, but balked so far at sending long-range missiles and heavier tanks.
Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the House of Commons Defense Committee in Britain, has urged London to supply Ukraine's forces with heavy battle tanks.
"NATO essentially has been benched," the former British army officer told the BBC on Jan. 10.
"We should be doing far more to put this fire out and we're not doing that."
Reznikov said there should be no controversy around Ukraine fulfilling its long-held ambition of joining NATO. "I'm sure that in the near future, we'll become a member of NATO, de jure," he said.
Reznikov also announced the intensification of military operations in the spring.
"We understand that they [Russia] will be ready for the offensive, and, of course, we must be ready for the offensive," Reznikov said.
However, he rejected the assumption that the Russian army would again attack from the territory of Belarus, explaining that time and resources are needed to prepare such an operation, which, according to him, the Russian army does not now have.
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