NATO’s Conditional Approval for Ukraine’s Membership and Disappointment of Ukrainian President Zelensky

2023-07-12 07:25:00

Leaders of the 31 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pose for a commemorative photo at a summit held in Vilnius, Lithuania on the 11th (local time). AFP Yonhap News

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has offered Ukraine, which has hoped to join NATO, ‘conditional approval’. If it is difficult to join NATO right away, Ukraine’s request for at least a ‘confirmed answer’ that it will join NATO after the end of the war along with a specific schedule for joining has not been accepted. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his disappointment, calling it “absurd”.

On the 11th (local time), the leaders of the 31 NATO member states issued a joint statement after the first day of the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, and said, “We have agreed to invite Ukraine to join if the conditions for membership are met and allies agree.” . Ukraine attached “conditions” to the confirmation of membership that it hoped for, and did not present a specific timetable.

NATO eastern front countries, such as the three Baltic countries and Poland, which share a border with Russia, expressed their opinion that they should accept Ukraine’s request, but the United States and Germany are said to have opposed it. It is said that Russia should not be unnecessarily provoked in the current war situation.

NATO agreed to exempt Ukraine from the ‘Membership Qualification Action Plan (MAP)’, a procedure that countries applying for membership must go through, but did not provide a specific timeline for this. Finland, which joined NATO in April, was also exempt from MAP.

NATO said the agreement went further than the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration that Ukraine would become a NATO member in the future. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was a “significant step forward”.

However, President Zelensky, who wanted to receive a clear ‘timetable for joining’, expressed disappointment. He said to the social network service (SNS), “It is unprecedented and absurd that a timetable for joining is not set,” and “uncertainty is weakness. This motivates Russia to continue terrorism.”

President Zelensky visited Vilnius that day and waged public opinion campaigns, such as attending the “#Ukraine NATO 33rd March” to the effect of making Ukraine the 33rd member state of NATO. On the 12th, the second day of the summit, he will attend the first NATO-Ukraine Council meeting with the heads of 31 countries.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Lithuanian President Gitanis Nauseda raise Ukrainian flags during the #Ukraine NATO 33 March in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 11, 2019. The flag was brought by runners who ran directly from Bakhmut to Vilnius, a fierce battleground in eastern Ukraine. AP Yonhap News

NATO regards an attack on a member state as an attack on the entire alliance and operates a ‘collective defense system’ that provides assistance such as armed forces. For Ukraine, joining NATO means a certain ‘security guarantee’, but from NATO’s point of view, on the contrary, it means going to war directly with Russia. Originally, the issue of Ukraine’s NATO membership was also the main reason why Russia started this war in opposition to NATO’s eastward movement.

Because of this problem, major member states such as the United States have expressed their position that it is practically difficult to join NATO in a situation where Ukraine is at war.

Although the expected ‘confirmation of joining’ was not received, Ukraine was promised additional military support at the summit. France announced that it would provide long-range cruise missiles following Britain’s, and Germany promised additional support worth 700 million euros (1 trillion won), including Patriot missile launchers, armored vehicles and tanks. The UK also announced an additional aid of 64.65 million dollars (approximately 84 billion won).

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