Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are privately debating what Kiev’s status should be within the alliance. All countries agree on upgrading Ukraine’s standing, but some are hesitant to commit to a clear path for Kiev to join the US-led military bloc.
NATO leaders are scheduled to gather in Lithuania for the Vilnius Summit in July, where member states are expected to agree to strengthen ties with Ukraine.
Last month, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the country’s membership status would be on the table at the upcoming meeting. “The Vilnius Summit will be important for many reasons… [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky will raise the issue of membership, of security guarantees, and this will be high on the agenda of the meeting,” he said, adding that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO. All allies agree on that.”
According to the Post, the alliance is divided by east and west. Eastern European members, along with Kiev, seek to give Ukraine a concrete path to membership as well as a clear timeline for when it might be permitted to join. However, some Western European states, as well as Washington, do not agree and prefer to focus on the war with Russia.
US officials reached by the Post said they view “Membership and potential security guarantees as matters that should be addressed as part of an eventual settlement to the war.” Countries opposed to Kiev joining the alliance worry the move will put NATO in a direct war with Russia.
Washington is supportive of a “bureaucratic upgrade to a NATO-Ukraine body or a decision to further expand NATO’s technical support to Ukraine’s defense sector,” the Post said, also noting that the White House appears unwilling to publicly voice its opposition to Ukraine becoming a member.
Late last month, White House 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.”
The Post spoke with an Eastern European official who said there is “something of a ping-pong between Germany, France and the US,” with each government accusing the others of preventing Kiev from receiving a concrete path to membership within the bloc.
While the disagreements remain unresolved, all parties agree it is important to present cohesion in public.
Kiev was first promised NATO membership in 2008, a pledge Western officials have repeated time and again in the 15 years since. Given the ongoing disputes among Western powers, its future with the alliance continues to be uncertain.
Russia has vocally denounced any plans to make Ukraine a member of the alliance, arguing it would allow Washington to establish a permanent military presence directly on its border. When explaining his reasons for invading Ukraine in the winter of 2022, President Vladimir Putin said NATO expansion and Kiev’s pending ascension into the bloc were among the primary reasons, alongside defending Russian-speakers in the Donbass region.