July 08, 2024

NATO and the EU Need to Get Real on Ukrainian Membership

At NATO’s landmark 75th anniversary summit in Washington, a key issue on the agenda will be the nature of the alliance’s commitment to Ukraine’s future membership. Following vague language in the Vilnius summit communiqué a year ago — which failed to specify when and under what conditions Ukraine would join NATO — divisions persist among allies about how far to go in making promises to Kyiv. Signs point to a similar outcome this year, with a formal invitation for membership remaining off the table.

The alliance’s lukewarm embrace of Ukraine is a strategic error. Kyiv’s Euro-Atlantic integration — meaning membership in both NATO and the European Union — is essential to the definition of victory in its fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion. It is therefore crucial for the West to lay out a clear path for achieving this goal. As the ongoing squabbles over NATO’s position demonstrate, there is a serious lack of clarity about how to align means with the end of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

If and when Ukraine no longer wants or is able to continue fighting, it must know that it has a reasonable alternative that would still represent at least a partial victory.

Clarifying Ukraine’s path to joining NATO and the EU must start with the explicit affirmation of a lasting ceasefire as a prerequisite. Both organizations bind their members together with collective defense pledges: the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5 and the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 42.7, respectively. Thus, as long as active hostilities continue, admitting Ukraine to either NATO or the EU would likely make the organizations’ other members direct parties to the conflict — certain to be an unacceptable outcome for nearly every NATO or EU country.

Read the full article from Inkstick.

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