London Daily

Focus on the big picture.
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

The West’s last war-time taboo: Ukraine joining NATO

The West’s last war-time taboo: Ukraine joining NATO

The topic has become so combustible that many officials just avoid it altogether.

For many officials, it’s a topic they won’t touch. When pressed, politicians give memorized, terse and robotic answers. 

The verboten subject? Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.

It’s an issue so potentially combustible that many NATO allies try to avoid even talking about it. When Ukraine in September requested an accelerated process to join the military alliance, NATO publicly reiterated its open-door policy but didn’t give a concrete response. And last week, when NATO foreign ministers met, their final statement simply pointed to a vague 2008 pledge that Ukraine would someday join the club. 

Not mentioned: Ukraine’s recent request, any concrete steps toward membership or any timeline.

The reasons are manifold. NATO is fractured over how, when (and in a few cases even if) Ukraine should join. Big capitals also don’t want to provoke the Kremlin further, aware of Vladimir Putin’s hyper-sensitivity to NATO’s eastward expansion. And most notably, NATO membership would legally require allies to come to Ukraine’s aid in case of attack — a prospect many won’t broach.

The result is that while Europe and the U.S. have plowed through one taboo after another since Russia invaded Ukraine in February — funneling mountains of lethal military equipment to Kyiv, slapping once unthinkable sanctions on Moscow, defecting from Russian energy — the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO remains the third rail of international politics. 

Touching the issue can leave you burned. 

French President Emmanuel Macron sparked an outcry over the weekend when he said the West must consider security guarantees for Russia if it returns to the negotiating table — a gesture that enraged Kyiv and appeared to go against NATO’s open-door policy. And behind the scenes, Ukrainian officials themselves faced annoyed colleagues after making their public plea for swift membership.

“Some very good friends of Ukraine are more afraid of a positive reply to Ukraine’s bid for membership in NATO than of providing Ukraine with the most sophisticated weapons,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister. 

“There are still many psychological barriers that we have to overcome,” he told POLITICO in a recent interview. “The idea of membership is one of them.” 


‘De facto’ ally 


Ukraine’s leadership has argued that for all intents and purposes, it is already a member of the Western military alliance — and thus deserves a quick path to formal NATO membership. 

“We are de facto allies,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared when announcing his country’s bid to join NATO


“We are de facto allies,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in September when announcing his country’s bid to join NATO “under an accelerated procedure.”

“De facto, we have already completed our path to NATO. De facto, we have already proven interoperability with the alliance’s standards,” he added. “Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.” 

The Ukrainian leader’s statement caught many of Kyiv’s closest partners by surprise — and left several grumbling. 

The overture threatened to derail a plan the alliance’s most influential capitals had essentially settled on: Weapons now, membership talk later. It was an approach, they felt, that would deprive Moscow of a pretext to pull NATO directly into the conflict.

In their statement last week, ministers pledged to step up political and practical help for Ukraine while avoiding concrete plans for Kyiv’s future status.

Ultimately, however, few allies question Ukraine’s long-term membership prospects — at least in theory. The divisions are more over how and when the question of Kyiv’s membership should be addressed. 

A number of Eastern allies are arguing for a closer political relationship between Ukraine and NATO, and they want a more concrete plan that sets the stage for membership.

“My thinking is that it is basically unavoidable,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, “that NATO will have to have a way to accept Ukraine.” 

On the other end of the spectrum, France’s Macron wants to take Moscow’s perspective into account. 

“One of the essential points we must address — as President [Vladimir] Putin has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia,” Macron told French television channel TF1 in an interview released Saturday.

Most other allies essentially evade the subject — not rejecting Ukraine’s NATO dreams but repeating a carefully crafted line about focusing on the current war.

Here’s NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s version, offered last week: “The most immediate and urgent task is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe.”

“The most immediate and urgent task is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent democratic nation in Europe,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg


And here’s Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra’s take from the same week: “The task here is to make sure that the main thing continues to be the main thing — and that is helping out Ukraine on the battlefield.”

U.S. NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith echoed the point in an interview: “The focus right now is practical support to Ukraine.”

Analysts say the fault line lies between primarily Western European capitals such as Berlin and Paris — which see membership as an ultra-sensitive issue to be avoided at the moment — and some Eastern capitals that see Ukrainian accession as a goal the alliance can begin working toward. 

Since the war began, that divide has only become more “exacerbated,” said Ben Schreer, executive director for Europe at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Some countries simply don’t want to even have a conversation about this because they feel it might further harden Russian responses.”


Another path 


Ukrainian officials do recognize that NATO membership is not imminent, but they still want a gesture from the alliance. 

“The ideal scenario would, of course, be a very simple sentence from NATO: ‘OK, we receive your application, we begin the process of considering it.’ That would already be a major milestone achievement,” said Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, ahead of last week’s meeting. 

Smith, the U.S. ambassador, said the Ukrainians are aware they need to do more before they could become members. 

Ukraine formally adopted a constitutional amendment in 2019 committing to pursue NATO membership. But even though the country has pursued some reforms over the past few years, experts and partner governments say there’s more Ukraine must do to integrate Kyiv into Western institutions.

“There’s more work to be done, I don’t think that’s a mystery,” said Smith, adding: “I think they’d be the first to tell you that.” 

As an interim solution, Kyiv has presented what it calls a pragmatic proposal for Western countries to help protect Ukraine.

“Russia was able to start this war precisely because Ukraine remained in the gray zone — between the Euro-Atlantic world and the Russian imperialism,” Zelenskyy said when presenting a 10-point peace plan in November. 

The West’s “psychological barriers” need to be “overcome by changing the optics” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said


“So, how can we prevent repetition of Russia’s such aggression against us? We need effective security assurances,” he said, calling for an international conference to sign off on the so-called Kyiv Security Compact, a new set of security guarantees for Ukraine. 

But it remains unclear whether Ukraine’s Western partners would be willing to make any legally binding guarantees — or if anything short of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause would prove a sufficient deterrent down the line. 

“Some of those countries,” said IISS’ Schreer, “would be very reluctant.” Any written security guarantee, he noted, “from their perspective would probably invite strong Russian response, but it also would make them at this point of time part of this conflict.”

A Ukrainian victory, of course, could shift the calculus.

“If Ukraine is stuck in a stalemate, then NATO membership isn’t gonna happen,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But if it retakes its territory and accepts its borders — whatever those borders may be, whether it includes Crimea or does not, because that’s the fundamental question for Ukraine — then I think things can move very quickly.”

Asked if he is frustrated with Western partners, Kuleba was blunt. 

“I know them too well to be frustrated with them — they are good friends,” he said. “It would be close to impossible for us to sustain the Russian pressure and to prevail on the battleground without them.”

But, the foreign minister added, the West’s “psychological barriers” need to be “overcome by changing the optics.”

Kyiv’s partners, he said, “have to begin to see Ukraine’s membership as an opportunity — and not as a threat.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
0:00
0:00
Close
Russia is rebuilding capacity to destabilize European countries, new UK report warns
You Are So Beautiful
EU Commission wants anti-drone defenses at Brussels HQ
Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Von der Leyen’s 2nd-term pitch: More military might, less climate talk
An old French tune (by Georges Brassens) Pomplamoose ft. John Schroeder
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Sattahip Motor Show 20
Prince William Urges End to Gaza Conflict
SONATE AU CLAIR DE LUNE - Moonlight sonata
UK court to hear Assange's final appeal against extradition to the US, where he faces charges related to his journalistic work—the publication of a classified video in 2010 that exposed US war crimes against humanity.
A kiss to build a dream on
About 50-60% kids either chose to be YouTuber or influencer
Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
A viral video of Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce lying on a Canberra footpath is celebrated by his media mates.
Mean Blues
European Countries React to Navalny's Death by Summoning Russian Diplomats
La Chansonnette
Israel has gone ‘beyond self-defence’ in Gaza, says Labour’s Streeting
Pattaya Addicts
English farmers to be offered ‘largest ever’ grant scheme amid food security concerns
Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream
Cameron government knew Post Office ditched Horizon IT investigation
Dream a little dream of me
EU Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza Conflict
Unchained Melody sung like you've NEVER heard!
EU Vows To Hold Putin "Accountable" After Meeting Alexei Navalny's Wife
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
EU Launches Probe Into TikTok Over Child Protection Under Digital Content Law
Édith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Sofie)
The EU Initiates Naval Mission to Defend Red Sea Trade Routes
Rondo Alla Turca
EU and UK Announce Joint Effort on Migration
Kiss of fire
Brazil's Lula Likens Gaza Operation to Holocaust, Israel Says "Red Line" Crossed
Tom Jones - I´ll Never Fall In Love Again 1967, 1989, 2001
Ministers Confirm Proposal to Prohibit Mobile Phone Usage in English Schools
Israel Cachao López - Guajira Clásica
Microsoft-backed OpenAI valued at $80bn after company completes deal
Edward Maya - Stereo Love (feat. Vika Jigulina) (Extended Mix)
‘Alexei would want to tell Russia not to give up fighting’
Strauss - Radetzky March - Karajan
Rwandan Footballer's Dismissal Sparks Concerns Over UK Asylum Plan
La vie en rose
Whisky Challenges China's Baijiu Market During New Year Celebrations
The Temptations - My Girl (Smokey Robinson Tribute) 2006 Kennedy Cent
Avdiivka - Symbol Of Ukrainian Resistance Now In Control Of Russian Troops
Orlando Cachaito Lopez Redencion
Putin Critic Alexei Navalny's "Killers" Refusing To Hand Over Body, Say Allies
Edith Piaf - NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN
"Historic Step": Zelensky Signs Security Pact With Germany
RADETZKY MARCH-2008-Wien, New Year Concert
"Historic Step": Zelensky Signs Security Pact With Germany
Only you (And you alone)
20 Tech Giants Sign Effort To Fight AI Election Interference Across Globe
Strangers In The Night
Joe Biden Accuses Putin of Causing Navalny's Death
Charles Aznavour - La Boheme
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
Summer time
Tucker Carlson grocery shopping in Russia. This is so interesting.
Sting and Stevie Wonder - Fragile (from Sting's 60th birthday concert)
Julian Assange's Wife Warns of His Death if Extradited to US
Aux Champs Elysees
‘A lot higher than we expected’: Russian arms production worries Europe’s war planners
Stand By Me - Ben E. King (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Greece Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption Rights
La Mer (Beyond the Sea) – Avalon Jazz Band
Hungarian Foreign Minister: Europeans will lose Europe, the Union's policy must change drastically
She
In Britain Homeowners are receiving CPO’s (Compulsory Purchase Orders) so their homes can be redistributed to migrants
Nathalie Song by Enzo Petrachi Stjepan Hauser Cello
Microsoft says it caught hackers from China, Russia and Iran using its AI tools
Shape of My Heart - Sting (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Influencers Exploit X Platform for Profit Amidst Israel-Gaza Conflict
Radiohead - Creep
Former Dutch PM And Wife Die "Together Hand In Hand" Via Duo Euthanasia
Quizás,Quizás,Quizás - Andrea Bocelli - Jennifer Lopez
Media Giant Paramount Global, Which Owns CBS News, To Cut 800 Jobs
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Multi-Couples
US Rejects Putin's Ceasefire Offer in Ukraine
Pentatonix Havana
"History is Watching": Biden Encourages US House to Approve Ukrainian War Aid
Paula Cole - Autumn Leaves
Wolf! Wolf!: Joe Biden Joins TikTok Despite Washington's Security Risk Warnings
Oscar Benton Bensonhurst Blues
A Londoner has been arrested for expressing his Christian beliefs.
OH NANANA vs ABUSADAMENTE
Chinese Women Favor AI Boyfriends Over Humans
Nina Simone - ”I Put A Spell On You”. Vezi aici cum cântă Jeremy Ragsd
Kylie Minogue to receive Brits global icon award and will perform at ceremony
NIGHTWISH - The Phantom Of The Opera
Greece must address role in migrant vessel disaster that killed 600: Amnesty
Motorshow 2016 Tanjay Negros Oriental
Russian Oligarch's Seized Yacht Costs More Than $7 Million A Year To Maintain: US
Monica Bellucci - Ti Amo
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean Milena The Voice France 2018
Travis Kelce's First Words to Taylor Swift After Winning the Super Bowl Have Us Swooning
Michael Buble (Help Me Make It Through The Night) feat Loren Allred
Memories Canon In D - Maroon 5 (Boyce Avenue piano acoustic cover)
Matteo Simoni - Marina
Maroon 5 - One More Night
Maroon 5 - Memories
Mark Knopfler - Brothers In Arms (Berlin 2007 Live)
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet (Real Live Roadrunni
Marina, Marina - The LUCKY DUCKIES intimist live concert at Guimarães
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On Mauranne The Voice France 2016
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet - Joslin - Henri Mancini, Nino Rota
LoLa & Hauser - Love Story
Linkin Park Jay-Z - Numb Encore (Live 8 2005)
Hallelujah Mennel Ibtissem, The Voice France Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love
Leonard Cohen & Natasha Rostova - Dance me to the end of love
La casa de papel - Bella Ciao
La Camisa Negra
L'italiano (Toto Cutugno) - The Gypsy Queens
Juanes - La Camisa Negra
Jonathan and Charlotte - Britain's Got Talent 2012 Live Semi Final - U
John Powell - Assassin's Tango
Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (LIVE in Dortmund)
Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart 2002 Live
Joe Cocker - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Jay Z & Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind LIVE
Jason Mraz - Im Yours (live)
Jarrod Radnich - Bohemian Rhapsody - Virtuosic Piano Solo
James Blunt - You're Beautiful
James Blunt - You're Beautiful & Bonfire Heart (Live at The Nobel Peac)
If You Go Away - Helen Merrill & Stan Getz (Tribute to Virna Lisi)
I'LL BE MISSING YOU
I Say a Little Prayer
Hotel California ( Eagles ) 1994 Live
Historia de un amor - Luz Casal. Vezi interpretarea Biancăi Sumanariu
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover) on Spot
Heart - Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin - Kennedy Center Honors
HAVANA by Camila Cabello Zumba Pre Cooldown TML Crew Kramer Pastra
HAUSER and Señorita - I Will Always Love You
HAUSER - Waka Waka
HAUSER - Sway
HAUSER - Lambada
HAUSER - Historia de un Amor
HAUSER - Despacito
Great Pretender
Georgia May Foote & Giovanni Pernice Samba to 'Volare' - Strictly Come
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues
GIPSY KINGS VOLARE Penelope Cruz
Fugees - Killing Me Softly With His Song
French Latino - Historia de un Amor
For A Few Dollars More The Danish National Symphony Orchestra (Live)
Flashdance • What a Feeling • Irene Cara
Filip Rudan - “Someone You Loved” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sez
Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
Enya - Only Time
Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (English Version) ft. Sean Paul
Enrique Iglesias - Bailamos
Elena Yerevan Historia de un amor
Ed Sheeran - Shape of You (Official Music Video)
Ed Sheeran - Perfect Symphony [with Andrea Bocelli]
Ed Sheeran - Perfect (Official Music Video)
Easy On Me - Adele (Boyce Avenue 90’s style piano acoustic cover) on S
ERA - Ameno
ELENA YEREVAN- Cancion Del Mariachi-IN STUDIO-2017 DPR
Dust In The Wind - Kansas (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Despacito x Shape Of You - Pentatonix
Deep Purple - Child In Time - Live (1970)
David Foster When A Man Loves A WomanIt's A Mans World (SealMichael Bo
Dance me to the end of Love ( Pi-Air Design )
Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise (feat. L.V.) [Official Music Video]
Conquest Of Paradise (Vangelis), played on Böhm Emporio organ
Cielito Lindo
Chico & The Gypsies - Bamboleo
Canción Del Mariachi - Antonio Banderas, Los Lobos • Desperado
Camila Cabello - Havana (Audio) ft. Young Thug
Camila Cabello - Havana ( cover by J.Fla )
California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas José Feliciano (Boyce Ave
Buster Benton - Money Is The Name of The Game
Hallelujah Pentatonix
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)
Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heaven's Door Emilia The Voice Kids France
Besame Mucho - Cesaria Evora
Ben E. King - Stand by Me Sax Cover Alexandra Ilieva Thomann
Bella Ciao
Bella Ciao - INSTRUMENTAL
Beautiful in White x Canon in D (Piano Cover by Riyandi Kusuma)
Bad Romance - Vintage 1920's Gatsby Style Lady Gaga Cover ft. Ariana Savalas & Sarah Reich(1)
BELLA CIAO 2020 - KARAOKE ITALIANO
BAMBOLEO - Gipsy Kings • Antonio Banderas, Katya Virshilas
BAILANDO (original)
Awesome Ukrainian yodeler - SOFIA SHKIDCHENKO (with English subtitles)
Avicii - The Nights
Atom - The Great Gig in the Sky
Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Official Ly
Antonio Banderas - Cancion del Mariachi (Desperado)
André Rieu - Zorba's Dance (Sirtaki)
André Rieu - Can't Help Falling In Love
André Rieu & Mirusia - Ave Maria
Andrew Reyes Elton John - Don't Let The Sun Go Down The Voice 2020 (
Andreas Kümmert Whiter Shade Of Pale The Voice of Germany 2013 Showd
And I Love You So
All About That Bass - Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Alan Walker - Faded (Piano Cover)
Ain't No Sunshine -- Bill Withers (cover by Canen 12 y.o.)
African music
Adriana Vidović - “Creep” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
Adriana Vidović - “Believer” Nokaut 3 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
A Fistful of Dollars - The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Tuva
4 Beautiful Soundtracks Relaxing Piano [10min]
2CELLOS - Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
2CELLOS - Smooth Criminal (Live at Suntory Hall, Tokyo)
2CELLOS - Smells Like Teen Spirit [Live at Sydney Opera House]
2CELLOS - Despacito [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
13 Year Old Girl Playing Il Silenzio (The Silence) - André Rieu
094.All About That Bass
00 - SADNESS PART 1
(Ghost) Riders In the Sky (American Outlaws Live at Nassau Coliseum, 1
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (Boyce Avenue ft. Conn
What a wonderful world
Moon river
×