In the Hands of the Ukrainians: A Call for Sovereignty and Security

news 12-Jul-2023 Europe

"This is an Invitation to Putin"

Few Ukrainians expected NATO to invite their country to join. However, the vagueness of the resolutions in Vilnius has disappointed many. Some fear that this could prolong the war.

Mourning and Loss in Ukraine

This week, Andrii Husak was laid to rest. In battles near Orihiv in the Zaporizhia region in the south of the country, the young Ukrainian soldier lost both legs, was critically injured, evacuated, and later died in the hospital. Husak could have worked as a lawyer, his mother Olga Husak said at the funeral in Dnipro, but that was not meant to be.

Death and loss, with about a fifth of the country occupied by Russia and intense fighting in the south and east, is the reality for the people of Ukraine. While an official NATO invitation was hardly expected, the summit in Vilnius certainly did not provide what the political leadership and most people hoped for.

"Only a Matter of Time"

Even though she knew there would not be an invitation this time, Eva Boyko from Kyiv says she is still disappointed because the resolutions in Vilnius send a signal to Russia "that they can continue with a sense of calm."

Boyko now hopes for the next opportunity, and Sergej Kuprin is "100 percent sure" that it will happen one day; it is "only a matter of time." However, for now, the disappointment is great, says the Kyiv resident. Even if NATO countries provide weapons to Ukraine, it is not a guarantee of security, unlike an invitation to join NATO would be.

Unchanged Attacks Continue

President Volodymyr Selenskyi expressed his disappointment on the first day of the summit, stating that it is absurd if there is no timeframe for the invitation and membership of Ukraine. Hesitation will motivate Russia to continue.

Even during the NATO meeting, there were Russian rocket and drone attacks, including on Odessa, the Sumy region in the northeast, and Kyiv. A woman was killed in artillery shelling of the frontline city of Kherson.

"What are the Conditions?"

Currently, there is no clarity on the conditions for future NATO membership, as Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated on Radio Svoboda, and that is precisely the problem. "What are they?" the minister asked, when will they be met, and who formulates them?

Volodymyr Yermolenko, a journalist and president of the Ukrainian PEN Center, wrote on Twitter that no one should be afraid to make decisions and postpone them until after the war. Because if it is said that Ukraine will become a NATO member after the war, it is "an invitation to Putin to prolong it."

Just "a Body"

The NATO-Ukraine Council also met for the first time at the Vilnius summit. However, political experts like Volodymyr Horbatsch from the International Euro-Atlantic Center in Kyiv expect little from it. Prior to the Russian attack, Horbatsch argues, Ukrainians applauded this decision by the Alliance. Now, he sees it more as a "political distraction maneuver."

In the Council, Ukraine can discuss "interesting things" with all NATO members, says Horbatsch. But it is still "just a body" and does not address security guarantees, NATO accession, and how Ukraine can be protected. He hopes "that this body exists until accession and not for long."

What Lies in the Hands of the Ukrainians

Weapons, support, and a sovereign independent Ukraine will be provided - these are the most important outcomes of Vilnius, wrote President's advisor Michaylo Podoljak on Twitter after the meeting: The life and security of Ukraine lie in their own hands, he wrote, just like the future and security of Europe.

The fallen young soldier Andrii Husak will never experience all of this. At the age of 28, he rests in the cemetery in Dnipro, and his mother Olha Husak is filled with bitterness. She hopes that his brothers will avenge him, she said - "and with every bullet fired towards the enemy, I will feel better."

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