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Support for easing Ukraine’s path to NATO grows among alliance members

NATO accession Sweden flags
Ceremony for the accession of Finland to NATO, 04 APR 2023. Credit: NATO/Flickr
Member states suggest Ukraine could join NATO after the war without following a Membership Action Plan; however, southern Allies raise concerns and Hungary and Türkiye, who are “uncomfortable” with Ukraine inching toward NATO.

Support is growing within NATO for easing Ukraine’s pathway to membership, increasing the likelihood that the proposal will become official during the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Politico reported.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has suggested that allies agree Ukraine could join NATO after the war without following a Membership Action Plan (MAP). However, this would not provide a timeline or guarantees for Ukraine’s membership approval.

President Joe Biden expressed openness to the plan during his discussion with Stoltenberg, and US support is crucial as NATO’s most important member. The proposal will be discussed at the alliance’s July summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“If it’s what America really, really, really wants, they can usually get it over the line,” said an anonymous NATO official quoted by Politico. Another official mentioned that the idea put forward by Stoltenberg should hopefully receive consensus within the alliance.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks in May indicated a more open stance toward Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, stating that Kyiv needed security guarantees and inclusion in the security architecture. Eastern European and German officials also expressed support for removing the MAP requirement, Politico writes.

However, there are concerns from southern European members who fear that removing the MAP barrier would anger Russia and potentially escalate the war. Hungary and Türkiye are also uncomfortable with moving Ukraine along the membership path. While a consensus on MAP removal is likely, further political gestures and discussions will take place ahead of the Vilnius summit, Politico says.

Background

  • The membership action plan (MAP) is a series of military and democratic reforms that an applicant nation must make before joining NATO. It is usually a long and complex process that can take years or even decades to complete. Ukraine has been seeking a MAP since 2008, but has faced resistance from some NATO members who fear provoking Russia.
  • The Polish parliament has adopted a resolution supporting Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
  • NATO former Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for Ukraine to be extended an official invitation to join NATO at the upcoming Vilnius summit. However, he named the removal of a Membership Action Plan as a prerequisite for moving toward membership as the next best step if Allies could not find agreement on inviting Ukraine now: “We did this for Finland and Sweden. The same accelerated path should be offered to Ukraine.”
  • Current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Ukraine could become a NATO member only after winning the war against Russia.
  • In addition, some NATO allies are also discussing what some call “the Israeli option” — promising to arm and support Ukraine for the long haul without committing to defend it. This would involve bilateral agreements between individual countries and Ukraine, rather than alliance-wide commitments, to reassure Kyiv about its long-term security and deter any future aggression from Russia.

NATO needs Ukraine as an ally, not just a privileged partner, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister says

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