As Russia began to mass its forces on the border with Ukraine nearly a year ago, Moscow demanded that Kyiv must never be offered membership in NATO. However, Ukraine, which gained independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991, had long aspired to join the international military alliance.
The truth is that until Russia actually invaded, it was likely a nonstarter – even as the idea of Ukraine and Georgia joining the alliance had been floated back in 2008.
Corruption within the Ukrainian government, shortcomings in its defense establishment, and even its lack of control over its international borders were all seen as hurdles that couldn’t be cleared.
Yet, Moscow’s demand for a legal guarantee that Ukraine would be denied membership continued.
Now the situation has changed. Ukraine could likely be invited to join the alliance, and Moscow has only itself to blame.
Ukraine NATO Invite Coming?
On Tuesday, NATO officials doubled down on an earlier commitment that was suggested after the Kremlin launched its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion, for Kyiv to enter into the international alliance.
“NATO’s door is open,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before chairing an alliance meeting in the Romanian capital city of Bucharest.
Stoltenberg was quick to highlight that North Macedonia and Montenegro had recently joined NATO, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will get Finland and Sweden as NATO members” as well. The two historically neutral Nordic nations had applied for membership in NATO in April, concerned that they could be in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.
Stoltenberg, who had previously served as the Prime Minister of Norway, was also quick to state that “Russia does not have a veto” on which nations can join NATO, and added, “We stand by that, too, on membership for NATO.”
He further said that any alliance expansion would not be hindered by demands from Moscow, and countered the Kremlin’s stance that Russian security is at stake.
“President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign decisions that are not a threat to Russia,” said the NATO chief. “I think what he’s afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that’s the main challenge for him.”
However, Ukraine won’t actually join NATO anytime soon.
At issue is that Russia controls the Crimean Peninsula, which it illegally annexed in 2014, while Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists now control parts of the country’s southern and eastern provinces – making it difficult to assess Ukraine’s true borders.
More Aid Coming
Kyiv must be solely focused on defeating Russia, and only after the war is over could Ukraine move to the next stage to apply for formal membership.
Yet, the foreign ministers of seven Nordic and Baltic countries also vowed this week to provide additional military, economic and humanitarian aid to help Ukraine withstand the Russian attacks on the battlefield, as well as the ongoing missile attacks that have targeted Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.
The United States recently announced a $53 million aid package to buy electrical parts for Ukraine’s battered electrical grid. Estonia has gone even further in showing its support, and it has called upon NATO members to pledge one percent of their GDP to the government in Kyiv in military support.
If Putin had hoped to divide NATO by invading Ukraine, it was a spectacular failure – much like the Russian ground campaign.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.