The NATO Perspective on Ukraine

news 12-Jul-2023 Europe

The NATO Perspective on Ukraine

The list of demands and proposals regarding NATO perspectives for Ukraine is long. It includes arms assistance, security guarantees, partial or full membership, both now or later. But what is realistic?

Certainly, the NATO summit in Vilnius will send a demonstrative signal of solidarity with Ukraine. The alliance partners are committed to supporting the country’s defense against Russian aggression with modern weapons systems and ammunition.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg aims to provide long-term assistance to Ukraine and bring the country closer to NATO. This includes delivering fuel, mine clearance equipment, mobile bridges, and medical equipment.

Ukraine seeks an invitation and guarantees

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will be attending the summit in Vilnius, wants much more. He sees this as the "year of decision" and expects Ukraine to receive an official invitation to join the alliance at the summit, along with security guarantees for the transitional period until actual membership.

However, Zelensky should not raise his hopes too high. Ukraine is unlikely to receive the desired invitation in the foreseeable future. A roadmap towards membership, which Baltic and Eastern European states would also like to agree upon, is also unlikely.

"De facto already integrated into NATO"

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda hopes that Ukraine will be shown a clear path to NATO. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins says, "Ukraine is already de facto integrated into NATO through weapons deliveries and training missions."

Others, such as the United States and Germany, are much more reserved. According to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the focus should be on providing the Ukraine with enduring military, economic, and political support.

No chance of partial accession

One idea that has been circulating in recent days, attributed to former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is unlikely to have any chance. Rasmussen, now an advisor to the Ukrainian government, suggested that only the parts of Ukraine that are actually under Kyiv's control should be admitted to NATO.

Opinions on the issue of security guarantees also vary widely. Most Eastern Europeans and French President Emmanuel Macron consider it urgently necessary for NATO to send a signal to Russia. However, Washington is cautious on this matter as well.

Arms assistance instead of collective defense guarantee

Instead, the term "security assurances" is used in an unbinding manner, which could include further arms assistance but not a "collective defense guarantee" as enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO treaty. If such a guarantee were given, NATO partners would have to come to Ukraine's aid in the event of another Russian attack.

US President Joe Biden raised another option shortly before his departure for Europe. Until Ukraine becomes a NATO member, Washington could provide the country with protection, similar to its relationship with Israel. However, this would be conditional upon a ceasefire or a peace agreement.

No "Membership Action Plan"

NATO wants to reaffirm Ukraine's basic alliance perspective. However, this has been the case since the 2008 Bucharest summit. Political connections between Kyiv and Brussels will be strengthened through the establishment of a NATO-Ukraine Council, which will meet for the first time in Vilnius.

Furthermore, the alliance intends to forgo the usual membership action plan that it typically agrees upon with potential candidates for NATO membership. This plan includes agreements on not only military but also political standards.

However, NATO already works closely with Ukraine, more so than with any other partner. Alliance member states train Ukrainian soldiers, and Western weapons such as the Iris-T and Patriot air defense systems, as well as tanks like the German "Leopard 2," are already in use in Ukraine.

The Call for a Clear Perspective: Ukraine's Path towards NATO Membership

The question of Ukraine's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been a topic of great interest and debate in recent years. Defense experts, including former Merkel advisor Christoph Heusgen, argue that NATO should clearly signal Ukraine's inclusion and work towards a concrete path for its membership. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also believes that NATO membership not only ensures effective security guarantees but is also a cost-effective way to deter potential aggressors like Russia. However, it is universally agreed by all 31 NATO member states, including Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, that Ukraine's chances for membership rely on the resolution of the ongoing conflict.

The Importance of a Path to NATO Membership

According to experts, providing Ukraine with a clear path towards NATO membership is crucial. It would not only signal strong support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and security but also act as a deterrent against further aggression from Russia. NATO's expansion to include countries such as Estonia has shown that membership in this alliance serves as an effective safeguard. Estonia, a nation that has experienced Russian aggression in the past, serves as a prime example of how NATO membership provides a reliable security guarantee. By outlining a clear path for Ukraine, NATO can strengthen regional stability and discourage potential acts of aggression.

Ukraine's Quest for Membership

Ukraine has long expressed its desire to join NATO, seeing it as an opportunity to enhance its security and strengthen ties with Western democracies. However, the ongoing conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine has hindered progress in this regard. It is vital for Ukraine to resolve this conflict before its aspirations for NATO membership can be realized. The commitment to maintaining stability and peaceful relations within its own borders is an essential prerequisite for any country seeking to join the alliance. Until the war is concluded, Ukraine's chances for NATO membership will remain uncertain.

NATO's Unified Stance

All NATO member states, along with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, are unanimous in their agreement that the resolution of the conflict is a precondition for Ukraine's membership. This unified stance is grounded in the principle of ensuring stability and security within the alliance. While NATO remains supportive of Ukraine, it emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This approach serves to protect the integrity of the alliance and maintain strategic balance.

The Role of NATO in Resolving the Conflict

NATO plays a vital role in supporting Ukraine's efforts to resolve the conflict with Russia. As a security alliance, NATO provides political and military assistance to Ukraine, helping it strengthen its defense capabilities and establish stability. The alliance's support also extends to diplomatic efforts aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. By facilitating dialogue and negotiations, NATO actively contributes to de-escalating tensions and promoting a productive dialogue between Ukraine and Russia.

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