Armament aid, security guarantees, partial membership, full membership, later or now – the list of demands and proposals for Ukraine’s NATO prospects is long. But what is realistic?
Of course, the NATO summit in Vilnius should and will again send a demonstrative signal of solidarity with Ukraine. In any case, the alliance partners want to continue to support the country’s defensive struggle against the Russian aggressors with modern weapon systems and ammunition.
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the aim is to ensure long-term aid for Ukraine and to bring the country closer to NATO. Among other things, this involves the delivery of fuel, mine clearance equipment, mobile bridges and medical equipment.
Ukraine wants invitation and guarantees
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will be present in Vilnius, wants much more. He sees the “year of decision” approaching and demands that Ukraine be officially invited to the alliance at the summit and receive security guarantees for the transition period until actual accession.
However, Selenskyj should not set expectations too high. The desired invitation will not be available for Ukraine in the foreseeable future. Just as little as a roadmap to membership, which the Baltic and Eastern European states in particular would like to agree on.
“De facto long since integrated into NATO”
In any case, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda hopes that Ukraine will be shown “a clear path to NATO.” And Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins says: “Ukraine has long since been integrated into NATO through arms deliveries and training missions.”
Others are much more reserved. The USA and Germany in particular prefer not to make any concrete commitments. According to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the focus should instead be on continuing military, economic and political support for Ukraine.
No chance for partial admission
The idea that has been circulating for a few days and is said to have come from former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen should therefore have no chance. Today’s adviser to the Ukrainian government could imagine only including those parts of Ukraine in NATO that Kiev actually controls.
Opinions also differ widely on the issue of security guarantees. Most Eastern Europeans and French President Emmanuel Macron consider a corresponding signal from NATO to Russia to be urgently needed. But here, too, Washington is on the brakes.
armaments aid assistance guarantee
Instead, there is non-binding talk of “security promises”, which can be, for example, further armaments aid, but not a “guarantee of assistance” as anchored in Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Because then Ukraine’s allies would have to come to their aid in the event of another Russian attack.
Shortly before his departure for Europe, US President Joe Biden brought up another option. Pending Ukraine’s NATO membership, Washington could offer the country protection, as in the case of Israel, but only if there is a ceasefire or a peace treaty.
No “pre-accession programme”
NATO expressly wants to reaffirm Ukraine’s fundamental alliance perspective. But that has been the case since the Bucharest summit in 2008. The political ties between Kiev and Brussels are to be strengthened with the establishment of a NATO-Ukraine Council, which will meet in Vilnius for the first time.
In addition, the alliance wants to do without the usual pre-accession program. Normally, NATO agrees a so-called “Membership Action Plan” with potential accession candidates. In it, not only military but also political standards are agreed.
However, NATO is already working more closely with Ukraine than with any other partner. Alliance countries train Ukrainian soldiers, Western weapons such as the Iris-T and Patriot anti-aircraft systems or battle tanks such as the German Leopard-2 have long been in use in Ukraine.
Demand for clear perspective
According to defense experts such as the head of the Munich Security Conference and former Merkel adviser Christoph Heusgen, NATO should nevertheless send a much clearer signal to Ukraine that it belongs and work out a concrete path towards membership with Kiev.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also believes that membership in the Western Defense Alliance is not only the most effective security guarantee, but also the cheapest to deter potential aggressors like Russia. After all, the best example of this is her own country.
However, and all 31 NATO countries, including Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, agree on this: Ukraine will only have a chance of becoming a member of NATO once the war is over.