Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 08.09.2017
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a successful alliance because it is particularly well-suited to the post-Second World War settlement. NATO’s founding document, the North Atlantic Treaty, signed on April 4, 1949, affirms the faith of its members in “the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” At the core of NATO is collective security, which has a political dimension that goes far beyond a military co-operation pact. Sovereign states are free to join or stay out of NATO, and existing NATO members are free to accept or not invite applicants. One for all, and all for one.
Ukraine is a prospective member of NATO. It became a candidate as soon as Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania also regained their independence in 1991, and all three Baltic countries are now members of NATO, and contribute to collective security.
Over the years, NATO has had various initiatives to lead towards giving Ukraine an invitation to join NATO. On the Ukrainian side, there was not much eagerness to actively pursue membership – until Russia invaded Ukraine. In February 2014, when Putin’s army attacked, everything changed because international war had returned to Europe for the first time since the Second World War. Seeing the foreigners from Muscovy invading the homeland, Ukrainians first rushed to the defence, and then considered NATO membership with a fresh appreciation.
Public opinion surveys are showing that a solid majority of Ukrainians favour joining NATO. Support for NATO is far stronger in Ukraine than it is in charter member Italy, for example. President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has said several times that Ukraine should have a referendum on whether the country should join NATO, most recently in a speech to the Verkhovna Rada on September 7.
Ukraine must hold such a referendum, and hold it soon. A clear choice for NATO, expressed unambiguously and democratically, will be an enormously powerful tool for Ukrainian diplomacy. NATO will at last issue the invitation it has been promising to give for many years, and Ukraine will accept.
Ukraine needs NATO because it needs the benefits of collective security to secure its borders and maintain its sovereignty - like every rational nation-state does. NATO needs Ukraine because collective security benefits from having the vanguard of Europe fighting and stopping the Russian invaders. The threat to the North Atlantic region of Europe and North America is greater than it has been since the Second World War, because Russia is invading Ukraine. Putin’s army must be stopped: all for one and one for all means every free and democratic country should be helping Ukrainian defenders. It is grossly irresponsible to demand that the Ukrainian armed forces defend Europe alone.
The fighting independent spirit of Ukrainians is – for the moment – holding up Russia’s invasion of Europe at Crimea and at Donbas. It would be best if all Western countries – especially Ukraine – co-ordinated their common defence against Russia under the umbrella of NATO. Existing NATO members should be begging Ukrainians to join the alliance. NATO needs Ukraine.