‘Ukraine’s future is in Nato, path to membership irreversible’

‘Ukraine’s future is in Nato, path to membership irreversible’

Washington: The US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has declared that Ukraine’s path to membership of the Trans-Atlantic military alliance is “irreversible”, and termed Russia as the “the most significant and direct threat” to the security of the bloc’s member-states.

US President Joe Biden (right) speaks with UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer during a Working Session of the Nato Summit at the Walter E Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, on Thursday. (AFP)

In the Washington Declaration Summit, issued during Nato’s milestone 75th anniversary meeting in the US capital on Wednesday, Nato members also patted themselves on the back for undertaking the “biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation”, strengthening the alliance’s “deterrence and defence posture” with a mix of “nuclear, conventional, and missile defence capabilities, complemented by space and cyber capabilities”, and spending more on defence. The declaration also saw a commitment to strengthen the defence industry across Europe and North America, and a warning that rising hybrid threats could escalate to a point that invited collective defence arrangements.

But held in the shadow of Donald Trump’s political rise in US, and Russia’s gains in Ukraine, Nato’s key goal appeared to be aimed at insuring the alliance and its commitment to Ukrainian security against internal political and external strategic shocks.

While saying that a “strong, independent, and democratic Ukraine” was vital for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area, the alliance categorically said that it fully supported Ukraine’s “right to choose its own security arrangements and decide its own future, free from outside interference”.

Nato then went on to address the contentious issue of Kyiv’s participation in the bloc. While Ukraine has wanted quick membership, Russia has made it clear this remains a redline and has offered Ukraine’s possible entry into Nato as a stated reason for its aggression in the first place. The US has been cautious; while supporting Ukraine, it has aimed to avoid any escalation with Russia in a manner that involves Nato. The issue has got more challenging as Trump has opposed Ukraine’s entry in Nato and promised a peace deal with Russia before he takes office, a move that has prompted European allies to “Trump-proof” US support for both Ukraine and the alliance.

The declaration saw these competing impulses at play, with the Joe Biden administration and other Nato members doubling down on their commitment to Ukraine, but leaving enough ambiguity by not offering a timeline for Ukraine’s entry.

The declaration said, “Ukraine’s future is in Nato. Ukraine has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the Alliance. We welcome the concrete progress Ukraine has made since the Vilnius Summit on its required democratic, economic, and security reforms. As Ukraine continues this vital work, we will continue to support it on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including Nato membership.” It added that once conditions were met, allies would be in a position to “extend an invitation” to Ukraine to join. “The Summit decisions by Nato and the Nato-Ukraine Council, combined with Allies’ ongoing work, constitute a bridge to Ukraine’s membership in Nato.”

But in other respects, Nato was more specific in its support. It welcomed announcements by members to offer air defence systems to Ukraine. It announced the establishment of Nato Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU) to coordinate the provision of military equipment and training. This, the declaration said, “will support the transformation of Ukraine’s defence and security forces, enabling its further integration with Nato”. It also promised to take forward the establishment of a Nato-Ukraine joint analysis, training and education centre to increase Ukraine’s interoperability with Ukraine.

The declaration also announced a pledge of long term assistance for Ukraine that promises “a minimum baseline funding of €40 billion within the next year”. This commitment, Nato has said, extends to purchase of military equipment for Ukraine, in-kind support, costs related to maintenance, logistics and transportation, training, investment in Ukraine’s defence industry, with Nato members promising proportional contribution.

On Russia, Nato held Russia as solely responsible for the war in Ukraine. It said there could be no impunity for what the bloc termed as Russian “war crimes”. It saw Russia as posing an “all-domain threat” that will continue in the long term as Moscow aims to “fundamentally reconfigure the Euro-Atlantic architecture” but also said that Nato did not seek a “confrontation”and was willing to maintain channels of communication with Russia. The declaration also condemned Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and coercive nuclear signalling”, and its “hybrid actions” including “malicious cyber activities, electronic interference and disinformation campaigns”. And Nato urged all countries not to provide “any kind of assistance to Russia’s aggression”.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan celebrated the achievements of the summit and claimed that Nato had displayed unity and purpose, and that it had provided “concrete commitments” to Ukraine and a “bridge to “Nato”.

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