NATO officially gives Ukraine aspiring member status; membership action plan is next ambition

During the visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Ukraine on 10 July 2017. Photo: 


Ukraine is now an official NATO aspiring member, i.e. nation declaring aspirations to become full-fledged members of NATO. It was added to the list of such countries on NATO’s website on 10 March 2018.

“Currently, four partner countries have declared their aspirations to NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine.”

Although NATO had expressed its support for Ukraine’s Euroatlantic aspirations back on 7 November 2017, it was not given any official status. Then, Secretary-General Stoltenberg did not answer the question whether Ukraine is included on the list of so-called “aspiring nations” which then included only Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia, and stressed that reforms are a priority for NATO-Ukrainian cooperation. Up till yesterday, NATO’s site stated that “since 2010, Ukraine has not been formally pursuing membership.”

This has now changed, after a working visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Brussels.

Ukraine's Euroatlantic integration representative Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze met with NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller on 9 March 2018. During this meeting, Ukraine's NATO aspirant member status was recignized. Photo: press service of Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ukraine’s Euroatlantic integration representative Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze met with NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller on 9 March 2018. During this meeting, Ukraine’s NATO aspirant member status was recognized. Photo: press service of Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ukraine is now on the list of aspiring countries. As well, the section on NATO-Ukraine relations was updated: it now includes a reference to a bill adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on 8 June 2017 which set NATO membership as Ukraine’s foreign policy objective.

Commenting on NATO’s decision to recognize Ukraine’s aspirant member status, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Euroatlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush Tsintsadze said:

“There’s a long path between recognizing ambitions and membership. It consists of, first of all, internal work, but we can sucessfully walk this path if we will purposefully change the country according to NATO’s democratic, social, economic, political, and of course, military principles and approaches.”

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has named Ukraine’s next ambition – a membership action plan, NATO’s programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia have such a plan.

Meanwhile, a forum titled “Revive the Euro-Atlantic Integration Process” is being held in Brussels with the participation of Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Special Representative of the USA for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, and Deputy Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission Katarina Mathernova.

A long and complicated history of relations with NATO

Ukraine became the first CIS country to enter NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in February 1994, and official cooperation began one year later. In 1997, the first official NATO Information and Documentation Center opened in Kyiv and a NATO-Ukraine Commission was established.

But in 2002, Ukraine-NATO relations soured as leaked tapes appeared to reveal that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, apart from ordering to kidnap the Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze, arranged the transfer of the sophisticated Ukrainian Kolchuga system to Iraq. The scandal unfolded amid a political crisis and protests against Kuchma’s authoritarian rule in Ukraine. The Ukraine-NATO Action Plan adopted in 2002, as well as Kuchma’s declaration that Ukraine wanted to join NATO, and the sending of Ukrainian troops to Iraq in 2003 could not mend relations.

Nevertheless, in 2003 the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a law  “The foundations of national security,” in which NATO integration and NATO membership were – much like in today’s law – proclaimed a key goal of foreign policy. The initiative didn’t live long: as soon as Poland became an EU member state, it appealed to Brussels insisting that the Union offers Ukraine membership prospects, which the European Commission declined with a mere partnership offer. The irritated Kuchma ordered to cross out NATO membership from the list of Ukraine’s strategic goals in 2004.

After the Orange Revolution in 2004 in which Kuchma was replaced by Viktor Yushchenko, expectations were high for a pro-EU and pro-NATO course. But internal quibbles and an absence of unilateral support for NATO within Ukraine’s population hampered the plans: in 2008, the second Yulia Tymoshenko cabinet’s proposal for Ukraine to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan was met with internal opposition, and despite US and Polish support at the 2008 Bucharest summit, the Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia were not approved, having faced opposition by France, Germany, and Italy. However, a declaration was adopted stating that the “future of both countries [Ukraine and Georgia – ed] was connected with the Alliance.”

After Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2010, Ukraine’s NATO aspirations were curbed as a bill was passed that excluded the goal of “integration into Euro-Atlantic security and NATO membership” from the country’s national security strategy. The law precluded Ukraine’s membership of any military bloc but allowed for co-operation with alliances such as NATO.

In December 2014, 10 months after Yanukovych fled following the Euromaidan revolution, after which Russia occupied Crimea and orchestrated a war in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine renounced this non-aligned status. The step was condemned by Russia. President Poroshenko vowed to hold a referendum on joining NATO, and Ukraine signaled it hopes for a major non-NATO ally status within the United States. In 2017, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a bill restoring the country’s course towards NATO membership.

Starting from 2015, military exercises took place between NATO members and Ukraine, including Operation Fearless Guardian, Exercise Sea Breeze, Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident, and Safe Skies. In September 2015, NATO launched five trust funds for €5.4 million for the Ukrainian army. In March 2016, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker stated that it would take at least 20-25 years for Ukraine to join the EU and NATO.

Public support for NATO membership

The support of Ukrainians for joining NATO soared following Russian aggression against the country which started after Euromaidan. According to polls by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Fund, until February 2014, it hovered around 15% and most Ukrainians were in favor of a non-aligned status for Ukraine, after which it soared to 33% and is now at its historic maximum, and support for a military alliance with Russia is at a historic low. Ukraine’s NATO membership has the most supporters in Ukraine’s western regions, while the South, East, and Donbas are more in favor of a neutral status. If a referendum on joining NATO would be held, 69% of those who would vote would choose “yes,” according to the latest poll of this fund from July 2017 (not shown on graphic).

Below is a graphic by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Fund, translated by Euromaidan Press (full size here).

Graphic by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic initiatives fund, translated by Euromaidan Press. Click for full size

Russian opposition

Russia’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has already responded to Ukraine’s decision towards NATO integration, stating that Moscow traditionally views NATO expansion towards Russian borders with distrust and concern. “We believe that this threatens our safety and the balance of power in the Eurasian region. Of course, the Russian side takes all necessary measures to counterbalance the situation and protect its own interests and safety,” he said.

In the past, Russia has spoken out strongly against Ukraine’s potential NATO membership. In 2008 then Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia may target its missiles at Ukraine if its neighbor joins NATO and accepts the deployment of a US missile defense shield. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reportedly declared at a NATO-Russia summit in 2008 that if Ukraine joined NATO Russia could annex the Ukrainian East and Crimea.

In an interview with BBC in November 2014, Peskov demanded a “100% guarantee nobody would think about Ukraine joining NATO,” an appeal which was rejected two days later by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as such which would violate Ukrainian sovereignty.

What Ukraine can offer NATO

According to the Institute of World Policy Ukrainian think tank, Ukraine’s added value for the Euroatlantic security network consists of its experience in hybrid warfare, counter-propaganda, rapid military modernization and the impact of civil resilience, intelligence on the eastern border and the Black Sea region, and energy security resources.


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  1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    The Krumlin has been trying to poison relations between Ukraine and NATO from the start. It has failed.

    1. Avatar laker48 says:

      Hopefully, but Hungary and Poland hold the keys. Also France and Germany aren’t eager to see Ukraine in NATO and already demonstrated that back in 2008 and 2009. Their stance has’t likely changed since, as both clandestinely support RuSSia against the US and former Soviet republics and bloc countries.

      1. Avatar Scradje says:

        Poland appears to be on the brink of joining Hungary as a putlerstan asset/would-be puppet.

        1. Avatar laker48 says:

          Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and other member states of the Three Seas Initiative pursue their national interests aggregated and sheltered under common umbrellas, i.e. the Visegrad Group and the Three Seas Initiative. These interests are not necessarily aligned with national interests of France, Germany, RuSSia and Ukraine. BTW, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary came up with gas supplies right after RuSSia cut of its supplies.

          Ukraine doesn’t seem to fit under these umbrellas, at least so far, but things can change in the present dynamic political environment. As I’ve already stated many times before, Poland and Hungary won’t let Ukraine into the EU and NATO with Bandera and Shukhevych as its national heroes. Ukraine doesn’t exist in a vacuum and shouldn’t play foul with its still friendly neighbours. The ball is in the Ukrainian court.

          RuSSia isn’t a relevant factor in the long run and Orban shouldn’t be blamed for buying oil and gas from RuSSia, as he doesn’t have another choice until the 10 bcm per year Baltic Pipe is up and running in 2022 and the Gdansk Naftoport oil unloading capacity is expanded from the present 34 to 100 million tons (over 700 million barrels) per year by 2019.

          1. Avatar Alex George says:

            “Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and other member states of the Three Seas Initiative pursue their national interests aggregated and sheltered under common umbrellas , i.e. the Visegrad Group and the Three Seas Initiative.”

            Except that those countries have as many interests not in common as they do in common. Its like trying to argue that everyone in the Commonwealth has common interests – they largely don’t, and they largely don’t pursue them together.

            For that matter, even the CIS nations pursue little in common together.

            “These interests are not necessarily aligned with national interests of France, …”

            Sure – they aren’t necessarily aligned with each other, either.

          2. Avatar laker48 says:

            They could have invited Ukraine to the Three Seas Initiative, but they didn’t. Same thing with the Via Carpatia energy and logistic corridor bypassing the Black Sea. Does this give you anything to think of?

          3. Avatar Alex George says:

            What on earth is the relevance of that hypothetical? You made the frankly absurd suggestion that the countries in the Three Seas forum pursue their national interest aggregated under it. I pointed out that this is just rubbish – those 12 nations have widely varying goals and interests, and its difficult to think of one issue where more than three of them could be said to coincide.

            You then come back with a complaint that they didn’t invite Ukraine to join. They didn’t invite Finland, Moldova or Turkey to join either – so what?

          4. Avatar laker48 says:

            The Via Carpatia bypasses the Black Sea and the Turkish Straits for a reason. It also ends at Thessaloniki for a reason.

          5. Avatar Alex George says:

            Everything happens for a reason, sometimes more than one. How does that support your absurd idea that the 12 members of the Three Seas forum have significant national interests in common, apart from the general one of trade?

          6. Avatar Scradje says:

            ‘Poland and Hungary won’t let Ukraine into the EU and NATO with Bandera and Shukhevych as its national heroes’. If so, they have effectively declared Ukraine as a defacto enemy, as likely more than half the country would indeed see them as heroes. Funny how they are prepared to use that as a stick to beat Ukraine with, yet are seemingly so indifferent to the countless atrocities committed upon them by Russia that they want to once again become vassal states.

          7. Avatar laker48 says:

            “(…) yet are seemingly so indifferent to the countless atrocities committed upon them by Russia that they want to once again become vassal states.”
            No, they aren’t, and RuSSia is openly declared as their enemy, what’s not the case with Ukraine. So far, hardly any EU and NATO member state wants to see Ukraine in these organisations. Just eat it!

          8. Avatar Alex George says:

            “So far, hardly any EU and NATO member state wants to see Ukraine in these organisations.”

            Sure, that’s why Ukraine is an aspirant member now. Because hardly any other members wanted it.

          9. Avatar Scradje says:

            ‘RuSSia is openly declared as their enemy’.
            You must be joking; Orban criticised putlerstan when it invaded Georgia, but since then has turned 180 degrees. And Poland, despite mounting evidence that members of its ruling party were the victims of a covert state execution, has inexplicably swung itself into putlerstan’s orbit.
            ‘Just eat it’ is kremtroll stuff. And btw I am not Ukrainian, I am simply concerned about fascist RuSSia and its murderous imperialist regime.

          10. Avatar laker48 says:

            ‘RuSSia is openly declared as their enemy’.
            Yes, NATO memberships officially implie this, at least militarily.

          11. Avatar Y K says:

            “Poland and Hungary won’t let Ukraine into the EU and NATO with Bandera and Shukhevych as its national heroes”

            A clash of integral nationalisms can never lead to anything good. For all the parties involved.

          12. Avatar laker48 says:

            If you want to talk nationalism, here are the links. Not too much has changed in western Ukraine since the WW2 times.



        2. Avatar Y K says:

          I wouldn’t go that far. What Poland’s current leadership is currently doing, however, is eerily and dangerously reminiscent of the 1930s Sanacja regime’s foolhardy foreign policy which ultimately saw Poland surrounded by enemies from all directions.

      2. Avatar Alex George says:

        Why would Hungary and Poland “hold the keys”?

        Hungary is already seen for what it is, i.e. aligned with Moscow. It isn’t trusted. Poland doesn’t want to become seen in that light. And no country has a “veto” over NATO membership. So why would these two countries exercise disproportionate influence?

        Also, what is the basis for your statement that France and Germany “clandestinely support Russia against the US and former Soviet republics and bloc countries”. That sounds like a wild conspiracy theory to me.

        1. Avatar laker48 says:

          All decisions about admitting new members to the EU and NATO have to be made unanimously by all member states and individually ratified by their parliaments. Got it?

          1. Avatar Alex George says:

            Which is not a “veto”. Put the silly theory to one side and look at the practice, all decisions on membership are made by consensus. Neither Poland nor Hungary will veto Ukraine joining if that’s what the other members want. Just as they didn’t stop this new status being granted. Got it?

          2. Avatar laker48 says:

            If they don’t agree, the application is dead in the water. Hope you remember the predicaments with the Dutch parliament. BTW, as I’ve already stated, it’ll likely be France and Germany that will stonewall Ukraine’s applications for EU and NATO memberships.

          3. Avatar Alex George says:

            Your reference to the Dutch Parliament indicates that you don’t understand the difference between the EU and NATO. But in any case, that very episode should show you that in practice there are no “vetoes” even in the EU.

            You appear to be trying to convince yourself that everyone is going to block Ukraine joining NATO. If I point out that France and Germany in fact show no sign of doing that, will your next post earnestly assure us that its the USA and Belgium who in fact will block Ukraine? And on it goes.

            If you really don’t want Ukraine to be in NATO then you can rest easy for a while yet – its still a fair way short of having its military and defence arrangements to the required standard.

          4. Avatar laker48 says:

            This horse is dead and there’s no point in kicking it anymore, so we’d better wait and see what’s gonna happen. So long! I’d like to catch some sleep now and do some spring skiing in the morning.

          5. Avatar Alex George says:

            You should indeed give up flogging your very bizarre horses.

      3. Avatar Y K says:

        Poland, maybe, but Hungary?

        1. Avatar laker48 says:

          Poland hasn’t done anything yet, but Hungary has blocked Ukraine in NATO at least twice since the Zakarpattia conflict broke out. Orban’s governing party is also much better represented in the EP than the Law and Justice Party (PiS) governing Poland.

          Poland, so far, stays behind the sideline and tries to negotiate with Ukraine access for the Polish Institute of National Remembrance to all unmarked burial sites of victims of the 1943-1945 Volhynia and western Ukrainian genocide of Poles, Jews and other ethnic minorities by the OUN/UPA-B (Bandera faction) and local Ukrainian peasants.

          1. Avatar Alex George says:

            Hungary has so far not “blocked” Ukraine from NATO, since Ukraine wasn’t ready to join anyway. Hungary would like to do so, because the Orban government does Putin’s bidding. But because that has become obvious, it is unlikely that Hungary will be allowed any say in it when the time comes.

          2. Avatar laker48 says:

            Hungary has already blocked or at least delayed several Ukrainian initiatives and meetings with NATO officials and institutions. It’s not Ukraine per se subjected to these measures but its present government and president that may be changed after next year elections.

          3. Avatar Alex George says:

            “delayed several initiatives and meetings”

            Now you are starting to show just a bit more honesty. The truth is that Hungary so far has not blocked Ukraine from NATO and does not have a “veto”.

            But I agree that Hungary would like to block Ukraine if it could, because Orban is in Putin’s pocket. He is probably like Yanukovych, getting hefty payments for doing so.

  2. Avatar laker48 says:

    Corrupt to the core Ukraine isn’t ready to join the EU and NATO, and won’t be for another decade or so. It’s made some progress since 2013, but this doesn’t seem enough to even thing about these measures. Ukraine may, however, develop close and fruitful mutual relationship with the US, albeit 100% on American conditions.

    1. Avatar slavko says:

      You sound like a Kremlin Toy on 100% Kremlin’s poisonous vapors.

    2. Avatar MichaelA says:

      ukraine can be ready to join nato within a year or two
      its up to it
      hungary needs to be booted out of nato

      1. Avatar laker48 says:

        The fascist RuSSian Federation will sooner collapse and disintegrate than Ukraine is ready to join NATO.

        1. Avatar MichaelA says:

          only if ukraine continues to resist reform
          if it reforms it will be ready within a year or two
          then it is in
          and hungary probably out

          1. Avatar MichaelA says:

            but its up to ukraine
            not up to hungary or poland

          2. Avatar laker48 says:

            Her’s a reading for you.
            Good bye!

          3. Avatar MichaelA says:

            good bye
            whats in the link – something important?
            as I was saying
            its up to ukraine
            not up to poland or hungary

          4. Avatar laker48 says:

            Open and you’ll know, mouthy, arrogant kid!

          5. Avatar MichaelA says:

            but why should i open something if its not important?
            yes you are a troll and for putin
            as I was saying
            its up to ukraine
            not up to poland or hungary