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    NATO allies wrangle over Ukraine membership path, Kyiv sees progress


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    VILNIUS (Reuters) – NATO members remained divided on Monday over how to put Ukraine on a path to membership on the eve of a summit in Lithuania, but appeared to remove one key hurdle to Kyiv joining the alliance.

    In a significant development, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg proposed a package that eliminates the requirement for a Membership Action Plan (MAP), which has been a precondition for other eastern European nations to join the alliance.

    However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is expected to attend the summit, seeks a clear invitation in Vilnius to join the alliance after the resolution of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, along with security guarantees until that time.

    While NATO members in Eastern Europe, who were under Moscow’s dominance in the past, support Ukraine’s position, others like the United States and Germany are more cautious. They raise concerns about actions that could potentially escalate tensions with Russia and trigger a global conflict.

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba acknowledged the alliance’s consensus to drop MAP, but emphasized the need for a clear invitation for Ukraine to become a member. He tweeted, “It is also the best moment to offer clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become a member.”

    Stoltenberg informed the press that further meetings will take place on Monday, stating, “No final decision has been made, but I am absolutely certain that we will have unity and a strong message on Ukraine at the summit.”

    President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly cited NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders as a justification for his country’s military intervention in Ukraine since February 24, 2022.

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    Diplomats are deliberating on phrases such as “Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO” and “when conditions allow” to create mutually acceptable wording for all 31 NATO members.

    In 2008, during a summit in Bucharest, NATO declared that both Ukraine and Georgia would eventually join the alliance, but did not provide a concrete plan for their path to membership.

    Some of Ukraine’s eastern allies argue that Vilnius must surpass the 2008 declaration and include wording related to an “invitation” or “invite” in the final declaration. Negotiations also revolve around determining the conditions and progress tracking for Ukraine’s membership.

    As the deadlock persists, diplomats are expected to negotiate late into the night to reach a resolution before the leaders convene on Tuesday, aiming to avoid a repeat of the situation in 2008.


    During a joint press conference with Stoltenberg, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda emphasized the importance of offering Ukraine the prospect of membership. He remarked, “We must avoid Ukraine membership … becoming a horizon. The more you walk towards it, the farther it is.”

    Ukraine’s key Western supporters are also finalizing a joint framework to provide long-term security assurances from individual allies. However, they may wait until after the summit to announce such arrangements to clarify that they do not originate from NATO, according to European diplomats.

    Stoltenberg also aims to overcome the deadlock regarding Sweden’s NATO membership. The main obstacle to Sweden’s bid is Turkey, as unanimous approval from all NATO members is required.

    In an unexpected move, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged the European Union to pave the way for Ankara’s accession to the bloc before Turkey’s parliament approves Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

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    Stoltenberg engaged in over two hours of discussions with Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, and further talks are expected to continue late into the evening.

    Prior to the summit, Stoltenberg expressed optimism that Ankara’s concerns could be addressed, as Erdogan is scheduled to hold face-to-face talks with U.S. President Joe Biden.

    Considering the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the summit will be guarded by Patriot missile batteries from Germany, fighter jets, and forces from 17 nations.

    In a significant development, NATO allies agreed on regional plans detailing how the alliance would respond to a potential Russian attack, overcoming a previous Turkish blockade. This marks a significant shift, as it is the first time NATO has formulated such plans since the end of the Cold War three decades ago.

    (Additional reporting by Andrew Gray in Vilnius and Anna Pruchnicka and Kyiv Newsroom; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

    Credit: The Star : News Feed

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