Ukraine-Russia War: Latest on Putin, NATO and the Fighting

As Finland and Sweden race towards NATO membership, the now very real prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the seven-decade-old At...


As Finland and Sweden race towards NATO membership, the now very real prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the seven-decade-old Atlantic alliance raises a pressing question in Kyiv and beyond: why and not Ukraine?

While wealthy, previously non-aligned nations could potentially join NATO in less than a year, Ukraine’s prospects of joining the alliance anytime soon — if ever — are highly unlikely. On the one hand: NATO, an alliance based on the doctrine of mutual defense, would be highly unlikely to admit a country trapped in war.

Ukraine, grappling with a fierce Russian invasion, would benefit enormously from NATO intervention define the creed, which says that “an armed attack” on any NATO ally is considered an attack on all of them. But President Vladimir V. Putin tried to justify his invasion by saying that Ukraine’s potential NATO membership threatens Russia, and that Washington and its European allies don’t want to antagonize Russia further and risk transforming the conflict into a larger war.

Even without the significant geopolitical risks, Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that has struggling with endemic corruption since its independence, would struggle to meet several conditions necessary to join NATO, including the need to demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law. Sweden and Finland, on the other hand, have evolved over the decades into vibrant and healthy liberal democracies.

And any decision to admit a country to NATO requires the unanimous consent of all 30 NATO member states, which Ukraine is very unlikely to obtain.

Here’s why Ukraine faces an uphill struggle to join one of the most vaunted security clubs of the century:

Mired in war, Ukraine has set aside the goal of joining NATO.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Finland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program with Sweden in 1994 and has moved ever closer to the alliance without joining. Finnish leaders have declared their support for join NATOand those in Sweden should do the same in a few days.

But for Ukraine, being mired in all-out war with Russia makes its NATO aspirations that much more complicated. In February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky underlined the ambition to join NATO, an aspiration enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution. since 2019. But last March, as the war with Russia raged, Mr Zelensky gave up on that hope, signaling that his country had to accept that it may never join NATO.

The comments appeared to be a nod to the Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine back down from its goal of joining NATO as a precondition to ending the war. This intention was reiterated during the peace talks at the end of March in Istanbul between Ukraine and Russia, during which Ukrainian officials declared that their country was ready to declare itself permanently neutral, giving up the prospect of joining the EU. NATO, a key requirement of Russia.

Even if Ukraine still wanted to join NATO, it might not meet the requirements.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

To meet one of the three main criteria for NATO membership, a European nation must demonstrate its commitment to democracy, individual freedom and support for the rule of law. While Ukrainian leaders claim to have reached this threshold, some US and European officials argue the opposite.

In a 2020 analysis, Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, ranked Ukraine 117th out of 180 countries on its Corruption Index, lower than any other NATO country at the time.

Some Western officials also wonder whether Ukraine could meet another criterion for contributing to the collective defense of NATO countries, even though Ukraine has sent troops to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also showed his military prowess during the Russian invasion.

Regardless of Ukraine’s military capabilities, there are other geopolitical obstacles. The alliance wants to avoid further Russian hostility, and Ukraine would certainly struggle to meet the third criterion: winning the approval of all NATO members. France and Germany have previously opposed to the inclusion of Ukraineand other European members are skeptical – a likely dealbreaker if Ukraine wanted to join.

The United States has been lukewarm about Ukraine’s NATO membership.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin’s insistence that he should prevent Ukraine from joining NATO appeared as a pretext for war. But the United States has also been deeply suspicious of Ukraine joining the alliance.

In 2008, NATO promised Ukraine and Georgia that they might one day become members, without specifying a date. But the alliance has done little to fulfill that promise.

US officials say they will not appease Mr Putin by undermining a policy enshrined in NATO’s original 1949 treaty, which grants any European nation the right to apply to join. The White House insists it will not allow Moscow to quash kyiv’s ambition to join the alliance.

Nevertheless, in January, a month before Mr. Putin launched his full-scale invasion, difficult negotiations between the United States, Russia and European members of NATO made it clear that the Biden administration had no immediate plans to help bring the former Soviet republic into NATO.

President Biden, wary of expanding US military commitments, has been reluctant to support Ukraine’s membership. Analysts say two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have dampened his fervor for NATO enlargement.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Ukraine-Russia War: Latest on Putin, NATO and the Fighting
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