On Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Draft EPP position paper2023-02-22 | Ukraine
On Ukraine’s membership in NATO
Draft position paper
NATO Summit in Vilnius, which will take place on 11-12 July, 2023, will be where an answer to a strategic question of geopolitical significance will be given – will Ukraine get the invitation to join NATO or not.
Not inviting Ukraine to join NATO during the Vilnius Summit will have major negative repercussions on the long-term security architecture of the European continent. It will be a clear indication that Putin still has a veto power on NATO enlargement. It will also mean that the European continent will continue to be exposed to grave short-term and long-term security risks.
Non-invitation of Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO during the Bucharest Summit in 2008 led to Russia’s war of aggression against Georgia, to occupation of Crimea, and to the war against Ukraine, which was started in 2014 and was expanded to a full-scale war in 2022.
Repeating the same strategic mistakes during the Vilnius Summit will lead to the same tragic consequences, i.e. to further increased aggressiveness of Putin and his Kremlin regime.
The EPP, a major European political power, has taken up leadership on support of Ukraine since the beginning of this war. It now needs to formulate a clear position supporting Ukraine’s Membership in NATO before the Vilnius Summit and to spearhead a European debate on this issue.
There are three major arguments that sceptics use against offering Ukraine NATO membership at the Vilnius Summit:
- Ukraine’s NATO membership will not strengthen NATO, in fact, a mere discussion about such a prospect could destroy the unity of the West;
- Many NATO Members are afraid to support Ukraine’s NATO Membership. In their belief this will empower Putin’s argumentation that Russia is surrounded by enemies and help Putin to further mobilize Russian people’s support for the war;
- Many NATO Members are afraid to provide NATO Membership invitation to Ukraine during the Vilnius Summit because that will mean that NATO Article 5 will be initiated immediately and thus NATO will become directly involved in the ongoing war.
How should EPP answer to these arguments?
- Ukraine’s NATO Membership is not only an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen NATO military capabilities, this decision would also unite the West for a broader agenda to guarantee a sustainable peace on the European continent:
NATO was created in 1949 to enable the West in a collective way to resist the imperial expansion of Stalinist Russia/Soviet Union into the Western Europe. Ukraine is now doing exactly that, while its military capabilities exceed all NATO Membership criteria. Today, Ukraine is fighting for the NATO goals alone – of course, with Western military assistance, but without any NATO-type Western security collective guaranties.
During the first year of war, Ukraine’s soldiers, their military/political leadership, and the whole society have proven that the Ukrainians have stronger motivation and military capabilities to defend their land than any other country in Europe. If Ukraine joined NATO (and the EU), they could form a battle-tested core of the “European army”.
Most importantly, Ukraine’s Membership in NATO would solve Europe’s biggest security challenge posed by the authoritarian Russia. It would positively affect post-Putin Russia’s transformation into democracy (see below), which would in turn have a major impact on restoring and maintaining peace on the European continent. Assisting Russia’s transformation is a major strategic task for both for NATO and the EU, as democracy in Russia is the only way to prevent further Russian aggression. Democracies do not fight each other. If such broader vision prevailed among NATO Members, there would be no argument against united support for Ukraine’s NATO Membership.
- Ukraine’s Membership in NATO will assist post-Putin Russia’s transformation into democracy. That is why the Russian opposition supports Ukraine’s NATO Membership, and why Putin is so fiercely opposed to it.
For the majority of Russians to be able to support the transformation of post-Putin Russia back to democracy, the Russian society needs to abandon its dream to restore the empire. This is the crucial first step. How can we assist the Russian people in abandoning the imperial dream? We can call this task the most important challenge in the process of “deputinizing Russia”. This can be achieved only through:
- Total military defeat of Russia in Ukraine;
- Bringing Putin and Lukashenko to justice at the International Tribunal for the crime of aggression;
- Extending an invitation for Ukraine to become a Member of NATO.
Such an invitation would send the most powerful signal to the Russians that their dream to restore the empire is gone – Ukraine is in the Western camp now.
The long-term stability of restored democracy in the post-Putin Russia (which is crucial for sustainable peace on the European continent) requires that Putin’s imperial dream of Novorossiya is not only decisively crushed; it must be prevented from recovering, once an inevitable post-revolutionary wave of nostalgia for the past sweeps over the newly revitalised young Russian democracy. Even the most hard-core imperial hawks in Russia must finally realise that Ukraine is no longer within their reach. It is, therefore, in the West’s interest to grant NATO membership to Ukraine in the nearest future. Ukraine’s Membership in NATO is not so much about increasing and ensuring Ukraine’s security – Ukraine is doing just that without the NATO Membership already. It is primarily about helping Russians not to succumb to the imperial nostalgia again, which destroyed the “Yeltsin democracy” and brought Putin to power.
Putin understands very well that Ukraine’s membership in NATO will not bring any security threats to Russia, because NATO is a defence organization and it is not threatening Russia with any military aggression. That is why Putin did not oppose Sweden and Finland joining NATO, even though their Membership brings NATO directly to the Russian border. However, Putin is well aware that Ukraine’s Membership in NATO will make his Novorossiya ideology obsolete. Without this narrative, he will not be able to keep his power and maintain nostalgic loyalty of many Russians to his regime. Fear of losing control internally is the main reason behind Putin’s fierce opposition to Ukraine’s NATO Membership. This is also the reason why the Russian opposition want their society to get rid of any nostalgia to imperial past, and do not object Ukraine choosing its own path.
During the Vilnius Summit, NATO Members will need to decide to whom they are listening on the issue of Ukraine’s Membership in NATO: is it the authoritarian Putin and his cronies in the Kremlin, or is it the Russian opposition, which is fighting for democracy in Russia?
- Ukraine’s Membership in NATO does not mean direct NATO involvement in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, but it can speed up Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine and bring peace back to the European continent.
There may be different ways to ensure that inviting Ukraine to join NATO (while the war is ongoing) would not become an obligation for the Member States to enter the war. Ukraine is not expecting such an obligation. For example, NATO’s invitation for Ukraine could entail a provision that Article 5 will only become operational after Ukrainian victory in the war.
Even such “limited membership” would provide many significant benefits for Ukraine, as it would become party to routine NATO activities and exercises. Even more importantly, it would send a very clear signal that NATO will forever stand together with its Member Ukraine.
This would still send a very powerful message to the Russian people, and especially to the Russian military leadership, that Ukraine is already a part of the West and will never be a part of any Russian empire.
The Russian people will realise that their dream to restore empire is gone forever (see above). The Russian militaries will realise there is no hope to achieve anything in Ukraine, in the face of the Ukrainian military motivation and the Western military technology combined.
Thus, even a temporarily limited Ukraine’s Membership in NATO will send a very clear signal that NATO will forever stand together with its Member Ukraine.
Such NATO decision can also encourage part of the Kremlin political and military elite to seek ways to end this disastrous for Russia war. Because the alternative – Russia’s continued confrontation with the united West on the future of Ukraine – will mean further isolation and ultimate catastrophe for Russia itself.
These are rational arguments in favour of the Vilnius Summit decision to invite Ukraine to join NATO, outlining how it will be beneficial not only to the security of Ukraine, but also to the perspectives of long-term sustainable peace in Europe and even for the perspective of democracy in Russia itself.
Not making this offer would be a repeated strategic mistake and missed opportunity to solve the biggest long-term security issue of the European continent.
That is why the EPP, a political power supporting democracy, security, and sustainable peace, needs to take clear leadership in this issue, crucial for the future of Europe.
Members of the European Parliament:
Rasa JUKNEVIČIENĖ, Lithuania
Andrzej HALICKI, Poland
Andrius KUBILIUS, Lithuania
Ivan ŠTEFANEC, Slovakia
Romana TOMC, Slovenia
Siegfried MUREȘAN, Romania
Vladimír BILČÍK, Slovakia
Andrey KOVATCHEV, Bulgaria
Riho TERRAS, Estonia
Sandra KALNIETE, Latvia
Tomas TOBÉ, Sweden
Aušra MALDEIKIENĖ, Lithuania
Romana TOMC, Slovenia
Elżbieta ŁUKACIJEWSKA, Poland
Franc BOGOVIČ, Slovenia
Jan OLBRYCHT, Poland
Janina OCHOJSKA, Poland
Michaela ŠOJDROVÁ, Czechia
Radan KANEV, Bulgaria
Inese VAIDERE, Latvia
Alexander Alexandrov YORDANOV, Bulgaria
Radosław SIKORSKI, Poland
Ewa KOPACZ, Poland
Jerzy BUZEK, Poland