May 7, 2021

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Will Ukraine and Georgia join NATO?

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The North Atlantic Alliance intends to strengthen political and practical support for Ukraine and Georgia that are close and highly valued NATO partners in the Black Sea region.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this during a press conference following the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on March 23. NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg said, “We are looking into how we can further strengthen the partnership both the political and the practical support.

We also welcome the fact that both Ukraine and Georgia are providing support and help to different NATO missions and operations… So the main message, again a part of the NATO 2030 agenda, is how can we further do more,

how can we strengthen partnership with neighbors, because it is in our interest that our neighbors are stable and successful, and, both Ukraine and Georgia are actually aspirant countries for NATO membership and we support them also in implementing reforms, so they can move forward on the Euro-Atlantic path?

” Answering a question from journalists, the Secretary-General noted that in response to Russia’s aggressive behavior, NATO had increased its presence in the Black Sea region with three littoral states: Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria are NATO members, and then two: Ukraine and Georgia are close NATO partners.

“We have increased our presence on the land, at sea, in the air, but we have also stepped up the cooperation with close and highly valued partners – Georgia and Ukraine,” he said.

“The best way for us to send a clear message to Russia is partly that we have implemented the biggest reinforcements of our collectivedefense since the end of the Cold War. With new battle groups in the eastern part of the Alliance, with the high readiness of our forces,

we have increased defense spending, with more exercises, and with stepping up our cooperation with partners like Georgia and Ukraine. I think that sends a very clear message to any potential adversary to NATO,” Stoltenberg emphasized.

In December 2020, Stoltenberg said at an online press conference following the NATO foreign ministerial meeting that, ‘Georgia and Ukraine are valued NATO partners’.

He said, “Russia continues to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine. It continues its military build-up in Crimea and increasingly deploys forces in the Black Sea region. We discussed their reform programs and we are stepping up our practical support.

Allies and Georgia approved the updated Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.” NATO Secretary-General added as well that ministers ‘agreed with further steps to improve the situational awareness in the region and strengthen their dialogue with both partners. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration,

Olga Stefanishyna seeks an answer to this issue in her article titled, “Ukraine Needs a Clear Path to NATO Membership.” Thirteen years ago, NATO leaders decided at their summit in Bucharest that Ukraine and Georgia should become members of the alliance.

It was the first time the alliance had formally recognized the membership prospects of the two post-Soviet countries, which had shown their willingness to assume the responsibilities of NATO allies. The Bucharest summit was undoubtedly a historic event, but the allies stopped short of granting Ukraine and Georgia membership action plans, used previously in NATO’s enlargement in Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO membership action plans represent a commitment from the countries aspiring to join to make comprehensive reforms. They also reflect the alliance’s promise that these reforms will open the door to membership. Fears of antagonizing Moscow and destabilizing the region stopped the allies from creating a formal path for Ukraine and Georgia’s membership in Bucharest.

During these heated discussions, Russian President Vladimir Putin openly questioned Ukrainian statehood for the first time—a warning sign underestimated by the allies. A few months later, Moscow started a war in Georgia, a scenario repeated in 2014 in Ukraine. Analysts have debated what might have happened if the NATO allies had taken a different route in Bucharest, but in the intervening years, the geopolitical reality has changed.

The prospect of a post-West global order has recently featured in international debates, and global actors with different values are gaining strength. In the post-Soviet space, the struggle between two value systems—democratic and autocratic— has intensified across all sectors. The outcome of this struggle will shape international security.

Russia is now building up its military presence close to the Ukrainian border on a scale that has forced Ukraine and international observers to consider the possibility of another Russian offensive. Key governments have made strong statements in support of Ukraine, calling on the Kremlin to stop the aggression. But statements are not enough;

Ukraine needs decisive action from the states committed to democratic principles and rules-based order. Democracies’ coordinated efforts may represent the only way for them to prevail over aggressive politics. U.S. President Joe Biden’s initiative to hold a Summit of Democracies is welcomed.

Now is the moment that democracies can determine the trajectory of the future, just as it was at the Bucharest summit in 2008. To avoid the mistakes of the past, NATO should change its geopolitical grammar. The alliance must shape its Russian strategy not toward Ukraine and Georgia but with them.

Likewise, Kyiv should be at the table when NATO updates its vision of Euro-Atlantic cooperation for the next decade. Accelerating Ukraine’s integration into the alliance should be one of the key elements of this renewed strategy, which will hasten the victory of the Western democratic system in the post-Soviet space. NATO’s current approach to Ukraine premised upon deeper integration in exchange for more reform, is insufficient and ignores the Kremlin’s gravitational force.

How NATO members view the future of its eastern neighborhood is a critical question, and the alliance is already lagging. Moscow has its geopolitical master plan for the region and beyond, and it has been systematically implementing it since 1991. In a recent interview, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he would like to ask US President Joe Biden,

“Why is Ukraine still not in NATO? Dmitro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine supports this question and he says, “Today’s Ukraine is not only a security recipient but a security donor in its region. Ukraine has been successfully countering Russian aggression for almost seven years now, protecting not only itself but a wider region between the Baltic and Black Seas.

Ukraine has gained invaluable experience deterring Russian aggression on the traditional military battlefield and in the realm of hybrid warfare which extends from cyber to disinformation and beyond. These factors would appear to make Ukraine a strong candidate for NATO membership. That is the rational side to answering President Zelenskiy’s question. However, there is also an emotional side to consider.

Perhaps the best way to understand this dialectic is by adopting a neuroscientific approach and exploring both the rational and the emotional approaches to Ukraine’s future membership in NATO. Ukraine and Georgia matter to NATO. Even in their current status as partners rather than members, they already de facto defend the alliance’s eastern flank and play a crucial role in the security of the Black Sea region.

Ukraine has contributed to NATO-led missions for decades. More recently, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the benefits of Ukraine-NATO synergies. NATO rendered Ukraine some critically needed medical equipment to help counter the pandemic, while Ukraine’s unique fleet of Antonov cargo planes allowed alliance members to receive urgent medical supplies. Ukraine welcomes the renewed focus on Ukraine’s NATO aspirations following President Zelenskiy’s recent comments. Next time you hear somebody ask, “Why i Ukraine still not in NATO?”,

try to sidestep all the myths and approach the question rationally. In the final analysis, the only reasonable response is that Ukraine should indeed be granted a Membership Action Plan and will eventually join the alliance. This is not neuroscience.”

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