VILNIUS – President Emmanuel Macron understands that NATO's summit in Vilnius must send a clear message that Ukraine is moving closer to the Alliance, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after meeting with the French leader in Paris on Wednesday.
"It is really important, as we both understand it, to send a clear message on Ukraine's move toward NATO. The Vilnius summit will be very important in this sense," Nauseda told Lithuanian journalists after his meeting with the French leader.
"We should not postpone these decisions to other NATO summits, but take steps now," he added.
While a concrete wording has yet to be agreed, France's commitment to support Ukraine militarily, politically and economically is strong, according to Nauseda.
"There are no very clear formulas that could be written down on a sheet of paper right now, but we have certainly agreed very clearly that what has been repeated many times about NATO's open door (policy) is not enough. It is obviously not enough," he said.
Ukraine should be brought closer to NATO through practical cooperation, such as joint exercises, sharing of experience, and other forms of communication, according to Nauseda.
"I think that if there is enough will, and it seems to me that we all agree today that there is enough will (...) to deal with this issue, I think that in the remaining few weeks, a month and a half, we will certainly be able to come up with these proposals," he said.
At the Elysee Palace, the Lithuanian president also discussed the defense of the Baltic region, including the need to transform NATO's Baltic air policing mission into a defense one.
"It was important for me to send the message that we propose a rotational model of air and air defense," Nauseda said. "The Baltic states believe that in the current circumstances, this would be the most appropriate way forward, ensuring that individual elements for individual periods come from specific NATO countries," he said.
The Lithuanian president said that he had already discussed this issue with the German chancellor and the Dutch prime minister.
"I think that at this stage, it is important for us to communicate our needs, and at a later stage, we could think about who and how could contribute to this and how to implement the rotational principle," he said.
Nauseda said he told the Elysee Palace that Ukraine's experience in defending itself against Russia's offensive had shown the importance of air defense systems and that the Baltic states found the air policing mission insufficient.
The president said that the first step is to take stock of what individual countries have and can provide to the Baltic region and that it is too early to talk about more concrete support.
The trip to Paris is part of a series of visits by Nauseda to NATO capitals in the run-up the Alliance's summit in Vilnius scheduled for July 11-12.
Ukraine expects to get a clear message at the Vilnius summit that it will become part of NATO, but understands that it will not receive an invitation to join the Alliance while the war is ongoing.
Lithuania and other NATO eastern members are making efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the Alliance's structures through practical cooperation and a clearer political commitment on membership prospects.
The BNS journalist's trip to Paris was partially paid for by the Lithuanian president's office. This has no impact on the contents of the news report.