NATO Considering ‘Upgrade’ for Ukraine Status

by | May 8, 2023

NATO Considering ‘Upgrade’ for Ukraine Status

by | May 8, 2023

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Zelensky with NATO Flag

Estonia plans on pushing the North Atlantic alliance to present Ukraine with a clear path to full NATO membership at an upcoming meeting, Bloomberg reported, noting that officials will also discuss upgrading Kiev’s status within the US-led military bloc.

Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said Tallinn will raise the issue of membership at the NATO summit in Lithuania scheduled for July, telling Bloomberg “We must move forward to give a strong message.”

“It’s not enough anymore just to repeat the already existing position that Ukraine is welcomed to NATO,” the FM added.

Ukraine was first promised NATO membership at a 2008 summit in Bucharest, where another Russian neighbor, Georgia, was also told it could someday join the bloc. However, Moscow reacted sharply to the proposal, fearing Kiev’s membership could lead to a large Western military presence on its border. In the 15 years since, NATO has repeatedly stressed that its doors remain “open” for Ukraine – including as recently as last month – but officials have refused to take further steps to grant full membership, even as they admit other countries in Eastern Europe. 

Ukrainian Ambassador to NATO Natalia Galibarenko said the current policy is simply not good enough, stating “It is high time to define a clear path to membership for our country.”

“We understand that NATO cannot name the exact date of future membership for Ukraine. However, just another confirmation of the ‘open door’ policy is not enough anymore,” she continued.

Tsahkna suggested that, short of joining the alliance, Ukraine’s official status within NATO could be “upgraded,” but went on to argue that “the only opportunity to give the real guarantee for Ukraine after the war is NATO membership.” Asked if Kiev should be given security guarantees in the near-term, the Estonian diplomat agreed, but stressed that membership should be the main focus. 

During a press briefing alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said the country’s membership status will be on the table at the upcoming gathering. “The Vilnius Summit will be important for many reasons… President Zelensky will raise the issue of membership, of security guarantees, and this will be high on the agenda of the meeting,” he added, declaring “Ukraine’s future is in NATO. All Allies agree on that.”

Stoltenberg went on to explain that Kiev will not receive membership at the Vilnius summit, however, saying the alliance would mostly discuss additional military aid “to ensure that Ukraine prevails” in its war with Russia.

The White House has refused to say if it will support Ukraine’s ascension to the alliance at the upcoming summit. Late last month, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the decision to admit new members is “up to NATO” and countries aspiring to join, adding that the administration’s current focus is on supplying Kiev with weapons to “push back against Russian aggression.”

About Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com and news editor of the Libertarian Institute. Will Porter is the assistant news editor of the Libertarian Institute and a staff writer and editor at RT. Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter host Conflicts of Interest along with Connor Freeman.

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