NATO leaders agreed the alliance would extend an invitation to Ukraine to join when "members agree and conditions are met," but no timeline for invitation or membership was set.
Baltic states make it easier for NATO allies to access their airspace
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will grant their NATO allies full access to their shared airspace, the three countries' defense ministers agreed on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
This means that all NATO countries will be able to use their shared airspace without prior notice. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own combat aircraft. That is why NATO has been protecting the Baltic airspace since 2004.
To this end, the allies regularly rotate combat aircraft and personnel. The units are stationed at military airports in Siauliai (Lithuania) and Amari (Estonia). In the coming year, the airspace will also be monitored from Lielvarde (Latvia).
Zelenskyy says Ukraine will make NATO stronger
Speaking to thousands of people in Vilnius on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for membership of the alliance.
"NATO will give Ukraine security, Ukraine will make NATO stronger," Zelenskyy said, standing alongside Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
The Ukrainian president wants a clear timetable from NATO on bringing his country into the alliance. "Today I set off here with faith... in a NATO that does not hesitate, does not waste time. I would like this faith to become confidence — confidence in the solutions that we deserve," he said.
Earlier NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said previous accessions to NATO have not been accompanied by a timeline, "They are conditions-based."
Zelenskyy thanked the Lithuanians for taking in many Ukrainian war refugees. "The Ukrainian flags on the streets of Lithuania clearly prove that we are already allies and that Ukraine is defending its own and your freedom," he said.
As Zelenskyy spoke, the Twitter tagline "#UkraineNato33" flashed behind him, alluding to Ukraine's plans to become the 33rd member of the military alliance after Finland and Sweden.
NATO allies agreed to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense
In addition to clarifying the NATO position towards Ukraine, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg made other important announcements at the end of the summit's first day in Vilnius.
According to Stoltenberg,NATO members have agreed that their established goal of spending two percent of their national output on defense will become a minimum level.
"Eleven allies now reach or exceed the two percent benchmark. And we expect this number will rise substantially next year. Today, allies made an enduring commitment to invest at least two percent of gross domestic product annually in defense," he said.
Stoltenberg also said that China is increasingly challenging the rules-based international order. However, China is not NATO's adversary, and allies should continue to engage in dialogue with China, he added.