« We are engaging with our NATO allies on this middle ground approach to determine whether it can gain consensus, » the senior official said. « We are trying to find common ground on language that supports NATO’s commitment to Ukraine’s transatlantic integration. »
For the plan to go ahead, « the alliance would have to follow through. »
Stoltenberg told USA Today this week which saw « it makes no sense » to hold the summit without offering a clear « signal » that Ukraine would eventually be a member of NATO. THE The Washington Post first reported it the Biden administration’s interest in the plan.
Ivo Daalder, US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, called the idea of removing the MAP a « significant » step. « It means you can get to the membership process much quicker, » he said. « He Tells the Ukrainians They Are Getting Closer ».
The process can take years. North Macedonia, which joined the alliance in 2020, entered its MAP in 1999 when the country had a different official name, the Republic of Macedonia.
Ukraine applied for NATO membership in 2008. But Russia was vocally opposed to the idea, a stance that unnerved allies like France and Germany as they spelled out steps Ukraine and Georgia should take in their MAPs to join. Doing so would signal to Moscow that, eventually, those former Soviet countries would join the Western military bloc it opposes.
The compromise decision of the alliance, codified in NATO Bucharest Summit Statement, was that both nations would not be told what their specific MAP should be, but would one day become members. Russia invaded Georgia again four months later. Ukraine’s move towards membership was halted in 2010 after Viktor Yanukovych, who saw no need for further integration with NATO, became President of Ukraine.
An adviser to the Ukrainian government said the MAP issue had become « toxic » for some on NATO’s Eastern Front who advocate a swift admission of Ukraine into the alliance due to different standards being applied to different potential alliance members. The adviser noted that the Ukrainian military has rapidly modernized to NATO standards, while some democratic reforms have been sidelined by the war.
The newest NATO member, Finland, was allowed to join this year without a MAP in place. Sweden would receive the same treatment as Finland but still awaits approval from Turkey and Hungary to join.
« Ukraine is equally prepared, militarily, as Finland and Sweden, » said Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative for Ukraine during the Trump administration. He further offered that NATO should add a « political leader » to his proposal who demonstrates that the alliance is « more forward-oriented » in its belief that Ukraine will eventually become a member state. « They may say they will review Ukraine’s course at next year’s summit in Washington, » he said.
Bringing Ukraine under the NATO umbrella is « the only logical solution, » said a European diplomat, adding that in the meantime, Europe and the United States must « provide Ukraine with clear NATO security guarantees. This is important for the future of European security”.
A informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers On May 31 and June 1, the Allies checked each other’s temperatures over the proposed removal of the MAP, Daalder noted. Diplomats also considered tying Ukraine closer to the alliance transform the current Ukraine-NATO Commission into a Councilwhich would allow Kiev to convene official meetings with members.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hoped his country would receive both security guarantees and a clear and rapid path to NATO membership at next month’s meeting in Vilnius. The Biden-backed Stoltenberg plan does not fulfill this wish, but improves Ukraine’s chances of membership after the war.
The proposal is also a compromise. Some Allied members, particularly in Eastern Europe, want Ukraine to become an imminent member, even with Russian troops inside the country and missiles hitting civilian targets. Others fear that welcoming Ukraine soon would further exacerbate strained relations with Russia by accepting a member suffering from corruption and other undemocratic problems.
Furthermore, NATO’s Article 5 obliges allies to come to the defense of an attacked colleague. Welcoming Ukraine into the club now would effectively put NATO at war with Russia.
« I think the Allies now agree that a proper invitation is unlikely while they are engaged in full-scale warfare, » the current US ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, told POLITICO last week.
Daalder thinks the plan could work because it « isn’t an invitation to join or a timeline, » but it « removes one hurdle. »
The fate of Stoltenberg, whose mandate has already been extended three times, hangs over the allied meetings in Brussels this week and next month’s summit. None of the top candidates so far – Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace or Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas – has been able to be chosen by consensus.
Stoltenberg is open to remaining in his position to ensure continuity as the war in Ukraine approaches its second year, but he is concerned that he will look like a second-best option if there is not broad consensus among NATO’s 31 members about who should take the reins.