NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed at a press conference today in Brussels that NATO plans to invite Ukraine into a new NATO-Ukraine defense council as an equal member.
Stoltenberg said the details of the council will be announced next month at NATO's summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
At the meeting, leaders agreed to boost defense production and standardize munitions and command and control interoperability among NATO nations and Ukraine.
NATO is also focused on a path to bring Ukraine closer to alliance membership, Stoltenberg said.
NATO has an open door policy regarding membership, and Russia cannot impact that decision, he said. Stoltenberg added that Sweden will also be welcomed into the alliance — hopefully very soon.
NATO leaders also agreed that the minimum, or "floor," for member nations' defense spending would be 2% of gross domestic product. Stoltenberg said that figure would not the ceiling. That means that he hopes the 2% figure can be exceeded by nations to keep people safe in an increasingly dangerous world.
NATO condemns Russia's reckless nuclear rhetoric and its plans to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus. Stoltenberg said NATO is also concerned with China's nuclear expansion and North Korea's missile testing.
“The minimum 2% of GDP for defense spending by NATO members will help ensure increased collective defense and deterrence and will result in forces at much higher levels of readiness,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said.
Sweden's membership into NATO will also be discussed at next month's summit, Austin said.
NATO to remove hurdles pertaining to Kyiv’s membership after conflict ends
U.S. is reportedly open to permitting Ukraine to forgo a formal candidacy process required of some other nations in the past.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius also told reporters in Brussels that NATO allies may agree to remove hurdles from Kyiv's path to the military alliance.
"There are increasing signs that everyone will be able to agree on this… I would be open for this,” Pistorius said.