Ukraine is worthy of joining NATO

Ukraine is worthy of joining NATO

In response to the Kremlin’s ‘sabbat’ with the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said that Ukraine is submitting an application for Ukraine’s accelerated accession to NATO. No one is under the illusion that tomorrow our country will become part of the North Atlantic community but this step can truly be considered a landmark.

Cooperation between Ukraine and NATO began at the beginning of independence: in 1992 the country joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, and two years later joined NATO’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ program. In 1997, at the summit in Madrid, the ‘Charter on  Distinctive Partnership’ was signed, within the framework of which the Ukraine-NATO Commission began to work, a Ukrainian mission appeared at the organisation’s headquarters in Brussels, and the NATO Information and Documentation Center appeared in Kyiv.

All Ukrainian presidents, with the possible exception of Yanukovych, sought to deepen the Euro-Atlantic integration in one way or another. In 2004, on the eve of the summit in Istanbul, President Kuchma approved a new version of the ‘Military Doctrine’, which indicated joining NATO as the ultimate goal.

Ukraine had a real chance to make a Euro-Atlantic breakthrough in 2005 when after the Orange Revolution and Viktor Yushchenko’s victory, the whole world applauded us. Unfortunately, due to the inconsistency of the standing of the political elites, the internal political strife, as well as the low level of public support, these plans were not realised again.

Much hope was placed on the Bucharest summit in 2008, when the NATO Council was supposed to give the green light to the accession of Ukraine and Georgia by providing them with a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Unfortunately, we received nothing again – the decision was postponed to December 2008, and then due to the war in Georgia and the political crisis in Ukraine, it was postponed indefinitely.

The change in foreign policy, distancing from the EU and NATO became one of the reasons for another action of disobedience by Ukrainians – the Revolution of Dignity. President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected after it, also made a lot of efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the Alliance, despite the fact that part of the country was occupied and annexed, and hostilities continued in the East.

After the victory of Volodymyr Zelenskyi, the NATO question took a back seat for some time. To a large extent, due to the fact that the possibility of Ukraine joining the Alliance was like a red rag for the ‘bull’ – the Russian Federation. And, in order not to tease Russia, this question was put in parentheses. That is why the leadership of Ukraine ignored the NATO summit in London in 2019. However, the course of Euro-Atlantic integration was enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine, which confirmed the immutability of our position.

But if before the war it was possible to rejoice in the illusion that joining NATO is a matter of several decades, then after the Russian attack, it became clear to everyone that it is impossible to delay it any further. Ukraine can no longer remain neutral and non-aligned: we need serious protection, a bloc, a participation in which will protect against any encroachment by our obsessed neighbour. There is no alternative to NATO in this respect. This is understood by the country’s leadership, the main political forces and, no less importantly, ordinary Ukrainians. According to the latest polls conducted in August by the National Democratic Institute in Ukraine and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 79% of our country’s citizens support joining the North Atlantic Alliance.

I dare say that this time we will succeed. The whole world is amazed at how bravely and tenaciously we repel the enemy. Ukrainians even joke that it is NATO that should ask Ukraine, not the other way around.

And seriously, in order to become a member of NATO, we will have to work hard. And not only on bringing our standards to NATO’s but also in negotiations with sceptics, who – let’s be honest – are not happy about the expansion of the Alliance because of Ukraine. Let me remind you that the decision to expand the bloc is made by consensus of all member countries. Accordingly, we must convince every single representative of the bloc.

It is pleasing that Ukraine has unprecedented support among some participating countries. Recently, the presidents of 9 Central and Eastern European countries, supporting Ukraine’s membership in NATO, made a joint statement, which speaks of unconditional support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions. Among them, of course, is Poland, which from the first days of Russian aggression has consistently supported Ukraine both militarily and politically, economically, and humanitarianly.

But, of course, there are skeptics who are not as optimistic as the Ukraine-friendly ‘Nine’. They quite reasonably note that joining the bloc by a country on whose territory a war is being waged, creates risks for the Alliance itself. However, the unequivocal opponents of joining the bloc of Ukraine have clearly decreased. And now Ukrainian diplomats must double their efforts to convince our partners, especially the leaders of the countries of Western Europe.

Does this mean that Ukraine will be accepted into NATO tomorrow? Of course not. But it is also not the case that the process will be delayed again indefinitely. We have a recent example of the accelerated accession of Sweden and Finland. Of course, we had to work with Turkey, but in the end we managed to convince Recep Erdogan that his country would not use the right of veto on the expansion of the Bloc because of these two countries. And while the technical formalities of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO continue, they were given unprecedented security guarantees.

Ukraine should receive similar guarantees, regardless of when the decision on its accession to NATO will be made. In addition, we count on a significant increase in the supply of the latest weapons – this is in the interests not only of our state, which has been courageously resisting the enemy for the eighth month, but also of the whole of Europe.

Ukraine has shown readiness to fulfil all conditions for joining the security bloc. The question is, will we be able to find arguments for the sceptics inside the Alliance who still doubt that Ukraine should become a member of NATO? I think there is only one argument here: today it is in Ukraine that the future of the Euro-Atlantic space is being decided, since the security of Europe is impossible without the victory of Ukraine.