NATO summit in Vilnius: will Ukraine obtain membership promise?

On 11-12 July, the NATO summit will take place in Vilnius. A possible invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance is the hottest topic.

Kyiv hopes to be granted a Membership Action Plan or to join the Alliance under a shortened procedure after the war. Ukraine’s invitation to join NATO has already been supported by 21 of the Alliance’s 31 member states.

Kuleba-Stoltenberg talks

On 29 June, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Foreign Minister called for a clear understanding of Ukraine’s path to joining the Alliance. The Minister thanked the NATO chief for his efforts and support for Ukraine.

During our call today, I commended @JensStoltenberg for his efforts to make the NATO summit in Vilnius a success. Ukraine continues to work actively with all NATO Allies to convince them that the time for clarity on Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance has come.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to the German government and urged Germany not to repeat the mistakes made by former Chancellor Angela Merkel in Bucharest in 2008. Back then, she strongly opposed any advancement of Ukraine’s membership in NATO. This decision led to the Russian invasion of Georgia and Ukraine.

Mr Kuleba said in an interview with the German newspaper Bild the Alliance’s decision at that time “opened the door for Putin’s invasion of Georgia and, ultimately, the illegal annexation of Crimea”. If Ukraine had already been a member of NATO in 2014, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the invasion of the entire country would not have happened.

21 member states support Ukraine’s accession to NATO

On Saturday, 1 July, Ukraine and Spain signed a joint declaration, which became the 21st document to support Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Spain wants to see Kyiv in the Alliance and vows to provide military and humanitarian assistance.

This was announced during a joint briefing by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who was on a visit to Kyiv.

Russia’s war of aggression changed countries’ stance on Ukraine’s accession to NATO

At the same time, in key European countries, attitudes towards Ukraine’s accession to NATO have changed under the influence of Russia’s full-scale war and invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s aggression has deprived sceptical NATO countries of the most potent counterargument against Ukraine’s membership – a possible escalation by Russia if Kyiv is invited to join the Alliance. The all-out war has already happened.

French politicians and experts admit that while a few years ago they did not support the idea of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, today, they see nothing wrong with it.

Similarly, in the opinion of all leading German security experts, Germany will not oppose Ukraine’s invitation to NATO if it gets the green light from the White House.

Stoltenberg says Ukraine’s accession to NATO will be considered after the war

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said that Ukraine would have a surprise regarding NATO membership. Still, she does not want to give it away.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance would be considered after a full-scale war with Russia.

NATO Secretary-General said Ukraine’s accession to NATO will not happen while the war is going on but that the membership path is there for the future. 

End of the war with Russia is a condition for Ukraine’s accession to NATO – Scholz

The prospect of Ukraine’s accession to NATO has a condition – the end of the war with Russia. This was stated also by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Several of Germany’s allies in the Alliance share a similar view.

At the same time Scholz says that Germany is one of the key nations that should work out all the security guarantees for Ukraine. The official Berlin and some NATO member states see “security guarantees” as an alternative way to ensure Ukraine’s security to membership in the Alliance.

In this context, some states are talking about providing Ukraine with security guarantees without the promise of NATO membership. However, given the bitter experience of the Budapest Memorandum and current Russian war aggression, any vague security guarantees will not satisfy Ukraine.

How Ukraine’s accession can benefit NATO?

On the other hand, supporters of Kyiv’s accession to the Alliance emphasise the positive factors for NATO. Experts say that Ukraine deserved membership in the Alliance by courageously defending its independence and territorial integrity by fighting against Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

They also emphasise that the experience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces gained in the war will greatly benefit NATO and that Ukraine will become a great asset for the Alliance.

Since February 2022, the Ukrainian army has been repelling a full-scale assault by the so-called second-largest army in the world and shielding NATO from the biggest direct threat. Kyiv appears as a shield between the democratic West and the authoritarian East.

In addition, NATO membership will be fundamental to Ukraine’s successful and safe post-war reconstruction and future security guarantees for the country.

Security guarantees for Ukraine to be announced at NATO summit – FT

Journalists of the Financial Times claim to know what security guarantees for Ukraine NATO will announce at the summit. According to the newspaper, NATO will offer bilateral agreements between Ukraine and four countries on weapons supplies and military training, which is what Ukraine has already now.

In Ukraine, the mistake of the Bucharest summit is seen in the fact that NATO committed itself to accept Ukraine, but practical steps have not been taken in this direction for 15 years, ultimately making Ukraine extremely vulnerable to Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius has a historic mission to correct the mistakes of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit. It is an opportunity to develop and ensure adequate security guarantees for Ukraine, which gave up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal and suffered a brutal and unjustified invasion by a neighbouring imperialistic state. NATO membership will prevent any invasion threats to Ukraine in the future.

So, the task of the Ukrainian government and diplomacy efforts is to prevent a repeat of the Bucharest NATO summit regarding the promise of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, as well as the Budapest Memorandum regarding security commitments for Ukraine, which failed.

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