NATO faces the Vilnius summit divided on Ukraine’s request to enter the club

NATO faces the Vilnius summit divided on Ukraine's request to enter the club

During the first 500 days of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO has managed against all odds to maintain a unwavering unity in their support for the kyiv government. However, this unity has broken down rapidly during the preparations for the decisive summit of the Atlantic Alliance which begins this Tuesday in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. What divides the 31 heads of state and government is the main item on the Vilnius agenda: the request for Volodimir Zelensky to enter the club in an accelerated way.

Zelenski demands from this summit a invitation to Ukraine to join NATO, or at least a roadmap with a clear timetable. And for this he has launched a diplomatic offensive in recent days with visits to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Turkey. “It is the best time to provide clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become a member,” the Ukrainian Foreign Minister tweeted on Monday. Dmytro Kuleba.

In this petition, Ukraine is supported by Poland and the Baltics. These countries maintain that entry into NATO is the only effective (and also the cheapest) way to deter Russia of a new aggression against kyiv in the future. And this thanks to the collective defense clause (article 5 of the Washington Treaty), which obliges all the allies to come out in defense of any of them who suffers an attack.

[Cumbre clave de la OTAN en Vilna: garantías para Ucrania, entrada de Suecia y más gasto militar]

At the opposite extreme are the United States and Germany, which allege in the first place that kyiv does not meet the requirements for democratic reform. A position that Spain also shares. But his main concern is that Ukraine’s accession leads NATO to an open war with Russia precisely because of the activation of Article 5.

This internal tension has been exposed in the joint press conference to present the summit that they have given Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Lithuania, Nauseda Gypsy, host of the meeting. Nauseda has demanded that NATO send “a very clear signal that accession is really possible when conditions allow it.” “Must prevent the entrance to Ukraine from becoming a horizon that the more you walk towards it, the further away it gets“, has said.

For his part, the Secretary General -whose function is to seek consensus among the 31 allies- has insisted that “the most urgent thing now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe, because otherwise there will be nothing to discuss about accession”.

Contrary to the usual, experts they have not been able to agree on the wording of the statement from the Vilnius summit as far as Ukraine’s accession is concerned: the last word will be with the leaders. “No final decision has been made, but at the summit I am absolutely sure that we will have unity and a strong message on Ukraine,” Stoltenberg explains.

As alternative to an accession calendar, the secretary general of the Atlantic Alliance offers Kiev a support package with three pillars: a multi-year military aid plan to ensure interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces; a rise in the level of political relations with the creation of a NATO-Ukraine Council (which will meet for the first time on Wednesday with Zelensky in attendance); and the elimination of the requirement of an Accession Action Plan for when this horizon is completed.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO on whether to include Ukraine in the NATO family now, at this time, in the middle of a war,” the US president explained. Joe Biden, in an interview with just before traveling to Europe for the Vilnius summit.

“For example, if that was done – and I’m serious – we would be willing to defend every inch of NATO territory. It is a commitment that we have all made no matter what. If the war continues, then we would all be at war. We would be at war with Russia, if this scenario occursBiden alleges.

Instead of entering the Atlantic Alliance, the United States and other countries (among which are the United Kingdom, France or Germany) have offered Kiev to negotiate bilaterally -apart from NATO- a series of “security guarantees” similar to those that Washington has with Israelas explained by the US president in the interview with .

These guarantees – which are being worked around the clock in order to make them public during the Vilnius summit – would include long-term military aid, training for the Ukrainian Army and intelligence assistance, but do not provide for a mutual defense clause in the event of a new Kremlin aggression. That is why kyiv’s closest allies regard them as a kind of diversionary maneuver in the debate on the entry into NATO.

“We need practical and concrete steps on the way to joining NATO”, claimed the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, in an interview with Financial Times. “I have the feeling that talking about security guarantees actually blurs the picture. The only security guarantee that really works and is much cheaper than anything else is NATO membership,” Kallas says.

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