NATO reaffirms its long-term support for Ukraine and says its members all agree the nation will join the alliance, but not while the war is ongoing, and not before it has reformed.
The Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg again spoke of NATO membership for Ukraine as a definite matter — despite previous dissent from within the alliance — as he spoke of a forthcoming meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council this week.
“Allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of NATO”, Stoltenberg said as he said discussions this week would focus on “priority reforms” for the country to make it fit to join the organisation. Recent direct support for Ukraine cited by the Norwegian politician turned alliance leader included the air defence coalition, billions in new funding, and the opening of the F-16 training centre in Romania for Ukrainian pilots.
While Stoltenberg was fim Ukraine would be joining NATO, meaning it would be party to the Article 5 protections which brings all members to war if any one of them is attacked in Europe or North America, he did also make clear that would be contingent on some major changes. Besides reforms for Ukraine including “full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces… based on NATO doctrines and training procedures”, he said Ukraine would have to no longer be at war first.
He told press during a morning briefing that: “All Allies agree that in the midst of a war full membership is not possible. But of course, we will continue to look into to address how we can move Ukraine and NATO even closer together”.
The remarks on Ukraine definitely joining NATO are not the first of the type, although previous statements that all allies have agreed to the step have been criticised in the past. As reported, Hungary’s Victor Orban responded “what!?” in April to Stoltenberg writing “all NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a NATO member”, and has explained Hungary’s proximity to the conflict gives him a special interest in not seeing it spread further into Europe.
Germany has also recently urged caution on the rush to make Ukraine an alliance member, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying after the war Ukraine will have been equipped with wester-made weapons, and that would be thge time to start talking about security guarantees. He said 2023 was the time for “concentrating on what is coming up”, and that NATO is “far from” being ready for Ukraine as a member so far, remarking “NATO’s criteria include a whole series of conditions that Ukraine cannot currently meet”.
None of these remarks have tempered Ukraine’s enthusiasm, however. Volodymyr Zelensky said in September that he considers Ukraine “a de facto member of NATO” already.
The willingness to steer Ukraine towards Europe without formally committing to it is not limited to NATO. Similar sentiments prevail with membership of the European Union, with senior European leaders speaking of the move as one of inescapable destiny, but nevertheless one which won’t be acted upon until the war is over, and when Ukraine has managed to address its problems with corruption, oligarchs, lobbying, and minority rights.