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Unless a consensus is reached within NATO, member states will probably not ratify Ukraine’s application for membership in the Alliance.

Photo: «Rammstein-3» contact group meeting
Source: YVES HERMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

One of Russia's main demands to the West before a full-scale attack was the withdrawal of all US troops and weapons from central, eastern, southeastern Europe and the Baltics and a guarantee not to accept Ukraine to NATO. The goal of the Russian Federation in Ukraine was to limit its sovereignty, reduce military-technical cooperation between Kyiv and NATO countries and consolidate Ukraine in its own sphere of influence. 8 months of armed aggression, however, led to the opposite results.

The Alliance has adopted a new strategy, according to which it will increase its presence on the eastern flank, while the number of rapid reaction forces will increase from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. This process is already taking place against the backdrop of the Russian Armed Forces depletion in Ukraine and the strengthening of Ukraine's defense capability. Contrary to Moscow's expectations, NATO countries have provided an unprecedented level of military assistance to Ukraine. Comprehensive support includes the provision of everything necessary for the continuation of armed resistance: from dry rations and winter uniforms for military personnel to modern artillery. Although it should be noted that the partner countries have not yet crossed the psychological barrier regarding the provision of modern tanks, aircraft and medium-range missiles to Ukraine. Nevertheless, the level of support for Ukraine is only increasing with every month of the war and with every terrorist attack and war crime committed by Russia.

Within the framework of the EU, partner countries have already introduced 8 sanctions packages. The eighth package provides for important decisions, such as expanding the list of Russian goods prohibited for import into the EU, including those that contribute to the development of Russia's military-industrial sector and the development of its technologies in the defense and security sectors. The package also lays the groundwork for the required legal framework for the G7 oil price cap. The 9th package is already in development. It may include the confiscation of Russian assets and a ban on the sale of property. Belarus may also fall under the restriction for participation in the aggression against Ukraine.

Further pressure on the aggressor country will increase in the near future. At this time, a consensus has been formed among the governments of the EU and NATO countries and official representatives of these organizations regarding further assistance to Ukraine. In particular, this is evidenced by the statement of the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, that Putin's victory in Ukraine will mean the defeat of NATO. At the same time, Ukraine still stays out of Article 5 on collective defense.

Currently, there is an unprecedented level of interaction between Ukraine and NATO states: firstly, in the context of military-technical cooperation, a decision was made to rearm Ukraine with the weapons of the Alliance. Also, Ukrainian soldiers undergo training on the territory of member countries; secondly, in the context of intelligence sharing. Even before the war, Ukraine met the same number of alliance standards as some of the new member states. Now the Armed Forces of Ukraine are the most experienced army of the continent, which actually protects the eastern flank of Europe. Therefore, the only obstacle on the way to accession is the lack of political will of a number of states and the desire not to be drawn into a direct armed confrontation with the Russian Federation, as was the case before a full-scale invasion.

This is the reason why Ukraine's application for NATO membership caused a very restrained reaction from the North Atlantic Alliance. In the case of Sweden and Finland, the accession was accompanied by active public diplomacy on the part of the allies, and the application itself was preceded by the agreement of such a step within NATO and separately with the governments of the two Scandinavian countries. Ukraine's application for accelerated accession at the end of September in response to another illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia became a surprise to many member states. In response, Jens Stoltenberg only stated that any democracy can apply for membership and the traditional phrase that the Alliance's doors remain open. There is currently no consensus in the United States of America on Ukraine's accession to NATO. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to the US president, said that the issue of Ukraine's accession is not yet a priority and the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time. According to Politico, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress Nancy Pelosi, in her turn, replied that the US is very committed to democracy in Ukraine and added: "Let's win this war. But I would be for them having a security guarantee." Instead, Democrat Mike Quigley expressed support for Ukraine's bid. "Ukraine's struggle is the reason we formed NATO in the first place. After the Second World War, we recognized that an authoritarian regime cannot be allowed to wipe out a democratic country. I think we need to support this”, Quigley said. That is, part of the political elite in the USA supports the idea of membership for Ukraine, but the position of Joe Biden administration is decisive, and it consists in the desire to avoid a direct confrontation with the Russian Federation.

Domestic political factors will also influence the position of the state leadership. In November, midterm elections will be held, in which the lower house of Congress and a third of Senate members will be re-elected. According to polls, the majority of Americans oppose sending US troops to Ukraine (only 26% support the idea), but 43% support sending US troops to Ukraine's neighboring NATO countries. Therefore, before the elections on November 8, the US leadership will stick to the existing course and try to avoid serious foreign policy decisions, on which political opponents could earn dividends.

Among the states of the North Atlantic Alliance, there are also those that have already supported Ukraine's intention to become a member of NATO. These are 11 countries, mainly CEE states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Canada, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. Nine of them issued a joint statement confirming the decision of the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 regarding Ukraine's future membership (and calling for increased military aid). Until a consensus is reached within NATO, member states will probably not ratify Ukraine's bid to preserve unity within the bloc. Therefore, currently the partner countries will continue consistent military support to Ukraine, however, outside the Alliance.

So far, the conditions for Ukraine's accession to NATO are not created, but the Ukrainian leadership is trying to create them. To strengthen the actual integration of Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic security structures, the Kyiv Security Treaty initiative was developed as a transitional stage before full membership in the North Atlantic Alliance. So far, however, there is no formalization of cooperation between Ukraine and partner countries. Instead, the interaction takes place within the framework of the informal "Rammstein Coalition", which in fact does not require legal commitments from the United States and other states participating in the initiative. Nevertheless, Kyiv adheres to a fixed Euroatlantic course. Now this is not only the vision of the government, but also of the Ukrainian population. Ukrainian citizens now have the highest percentage of support for NATO membership in history. 83% are in favor of membership, only 4% are against. At the same time, 86% of respondents would support Ukraine's accession to the European Union in the event of a referendum.

The Russian-Ukrainian war should lead to a NATO membership for Ukraine. Both sides will benefit from this: the North Atlantic Alliance will strengthen the eastern flank of Europe at the expense of the most experienced and combat-ready army on the continent. Brussels and Washington will influence the processes that will take place in post-war Ukraine. This is important for the stability both of Ukraine and Europe. Security guarantees, in turn, will prevent another attack by the Russian Federation. Otherwise, leaving Ukraine outside of Article 5, means leaving a vulnerability on the eastern flank of the Alliance.