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FP: US, Germany push to delay Ukraine NATO membership invite

Ukraine and its key allies are pushing NATO to invite Kyiv to join the military alliance at an upcoming summit this summer, but face opposition from the US and Germany, say officials, according to FT.
United Nations headquarters in Brussels, Photo: Kenzo Tribuillard Getty Images.

Ukraine and its key supporters are advocating for NATO to formally invite Kyiv to join the military alliance at an upcoming summit, but these efforts are encountering notable opposition from the United States and Germany, “according to a dozen current and former officials familiar with the matter,” Foreign Policy says.

Kyiv enjoys support from Eastern European NATO member states, including Poland and the Baltic nations, who see Ukraine’s NATO membership as an effective and economical means to counter Russia’s territorial ambitions in Eastern Europe, FT notes.

However, the US and Germany, as major contributors of military and economic assistance to Ukraine, maintain their commitment to Ukraine’s eventual NATO membership, yet they emphasize that the current moment is not conducive to initiating the NATO membership process. Instead, their priority lies in providing Ukraine with continued support in the form of weapons and ammunition to sustain its ongoing struggle against Russia in the short term, according to FT.

Ukraine’s NATO aspirations

In Vilnius on 11-12 July last year, a historic NATO decision affirmed Ukraine’s future membership, but Ukraine did not receive an invitation. To join NATO, Ukraine must undertake security and political reforms. However, it remains uncertain whether Washington and 32 other allies, including Sweden, will agree on the next steps.

Bucharest+, Budapest+: seven things Ukraine brings home from the NATO summit in Vilnius

Last year’s opinion poll by Rating Group showed that 83% of Ukrainians in Ukraine and 86% of those living in Europe support NATO membership. Only 6% of Ukrainians in Ukraine and 4% in Europe are against joining the Alliance.

The Gallup poll conducted in October 2023 highlighted that 69% of Ukrainians believe they will join NATO within ten years. This optimism extends to the country’s European Union accession as well, with nearly three in four individuals foreseeing a successful bid. 

While Ukraine is progressing toward NATO membership, President Zelenskyy’s proposal for further action awaits a decision.

Next NATO summit may also not extend invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance

The next NATO summit will be held in Washington DC, United States, from 9 to 11 July 2024.

In an interview with LRT RADIO, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Boris Ruge said that Ukraine may not be invited to join NATO this year:

“The next step would be an invitation, and it’s not clear whether we will see such an invitation in Washington. I think we have to acknowledge that there’s a debate going on in many NATO member states, that there are elections in NATO member states in 2024,” he said.

As the US Congress Republicans continued to delay the approval of a new Ukraine aid package for months, US President Biden cautioned Congress leaders that curtailing assistance for outgunned Ukrainian forces risks a spillover of hostilities into neighboring NATO countries, thereby obliging US troops to directly confront the Russians.

Supporters like former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen argue that not inviting Ukraine would give Putin veto power over NATO expansion and “gives him an incentive to continue hostilities in Ukraine indefinitely.”

However, some officials think inviting Ukraine too soon could trigger a full-scale NATO-Russia war, FT says, given the Alliance’s collective defense clause that calls for all NATO members to defend any one nation that has been attacked.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine “will become a member of NATO” but did not give a timeline.

During last year’s NATO summit, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba said that the United States and Germany are the most conservative about Ukraine’s future membership in NATO. He also noted no clarity on the conditions of future NATO membership for Ukraine – what those should be and by whom they should be formulated.

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