Is it the right time for NATO to invite Ukraine into Alliance?
    Pundits try to find the answer

    INTERVIEWS  13 May 2023 - 12:23

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Kyiv hopes to receive a political invitation to NATO at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius in July, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olha Stefanyshyn, has said on the Rada TV channel.

    "A political invitation of Ukraine to NATO is possible and we will wait for it in Vilnius. We hope that the allies will be ready to discuss it at the summit," she said, noting that Kyiv did not see any objective obstacles to inviting Ukraine to the alliance.

    A little earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would not join NATO until the conflict on its territory is over, but asked as a measure of support to send Kyiv an invitation to the alliance already now.

    For his part, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Kyiv would only be satisfied with an invitation to NATO and nothing else as a decision of the summit in Vilnius on July 11-12.

    What exactly an officially voiced invitation to join this military bloc will give Ukraine? Is this circumstance capable somehow to influence the course or outcome of the ongoing war? What can President Zelenskyy mean when he speaks about such an invitation to join as a "measure of support"?

    Well-known foreign experts have expressed their opinion on this matter to Caliber.Az.

    Apparently, Kyiv believes that this will be a great moral support for them, says David Satter, a well-known US political scientist, publicist, and expert on Russian-American relations. After all, it is difficult to imagine in these uncertain conditions what it will really give them in a practical sense, he says.

    "There is a possibility that this will worry political circles in Western countries that are now supporting Ukraine. These countries may be hesitant to set the terms of the invitation now that the end of the war is not on the horizon, because it may limit their room for diplomatic manoeuvre.

    After all, if such an invitation is extended now, then any outcome of the war must imply Ukraine's membership in NATO. But this could be interpreted in the West as an attempt to limit their freedom of action. Therefore, I don't think it makes sense to deal seriously with the issue of Ukraine's membership in the Alliance right now. It should not be a priority at this time. It would be better not to stir up the internal situation in the Western countries and to remain ready to provide military assistance to liberate the Ukrainian lands", the American observer believes.

    For his part, the director of the Centre for Regional Security Studies (Sumy State University), Mykola Nazarov, said that in order to answer these questions, one should well analyse and "relive" the history of relations between Ukraine and NATO as well as the decisions that the alliance has made on the issue of integration.

    "And the tipping point here is the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 when Ukraine did not receive the expected MAP (Membership Action Plan), which is the roadmap to membership in the bloc. Under pressure from Russian President Putin, and by virtue of their perceptions, the German and French leaders (Merkel and Sarkozy) blocked the decision, and a very broad and vague formulation was adopted for Ukraine: the door to NATO is open for Ukraine and it will join the Alliance at some point. Of course, it was a blow to Ukraine, and in fact, in 2010 President Yanukovych put a lot of weight behind Ukraine's non-bloc policy, also citing the fact that 'Ukraine is not welcome in NATO'.

    Today we see a significant change in the position of Germany and France on the issue. The NATO secretary general claims that all countries agree that Ukraine should join the bloc. Consequently, it is fundamentally important for the Ukrainian authorities that the outcome of this summit is not another empty formulation, but a more or less serious political statement - an invitation to join NATO.

    Can this decision affect the course of the war? I believe it cannot, but it will definitely add confidence to Ukraine and Ukrainians that we will have certain security guarantees at the end of the war. And perhaps even more importantly, we will finally be included in Western structures, in effect becoming de facto part of the West," says the security expert.

    The invitation to become a NATO member would send a powerful signal to Putin and the war hawks in the Kremlin and an argument for them to finally realise that Ukraine is no longer within their influence, said Security Service of Ukraine reserve major-general, former SSU deputy head and director of the Security Sector Reform Agency Viktor Yahun.

    "I would like to note, for example, that the centre-right group in the European Parliament, the European People's Party, has adopted a position paper calling on NATO to lay the groundwork for Kyiv's accession to the Alliance in the long term. They expect the upcoming summits in Vilnius and Washington to pave the way for Ukraine to be invited to join NATO, with the accession process to begin when the war is over and completed as soon as possible.

    This move will strengthen the Alliance and be a further step towards sustainable peace in Europe. After all, previous security solutions for Ukraine - from the Budapest Memorandum to the conclusions of the NATO Bucharest Summit - have not prevented a full-scale Russian invasion, and keeping the country permanently in the so-called grey zone will only encourage Moscow to resort to aggression again in the future," General Yahun summarised.

    Caliber.Az

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