Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 13.07.2018
No one can say when, but Ukraine will become a member of NATO. The sooner the better for world peace and security.
On July 12, the NATO Heads of State and Government met in Brussels, Belgium to meet the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia. Ukraine and Georgia are both prospective NATO members, both have been invaded by Russia, and both have had part of their territories occupied by Russia.
While Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 has taken on some of the characteristics of a frozen conflict, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 has remained a hot war. In a statement released after the Georgia-Ukraine meeting with the North Atlantic Council, the leaders of NATO countries expressed their “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders” – in other words, Crimea is Ukraine and Donbas is Ukraine, and Russia is an illegal occupier. “NATO and Ukraine continue to call on Russia to reverse its illegal and illegitimate annexation of the Crimean peninsula, which they do not and will not recognize,” the statement reads.
NATO leaders went on to say that Ukraine has the “right to decide on its future and foreign policy course free from outside interference, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act.” Ukraine has the right to choose its own alliances, including the right to join NATO. The desire of Ukraine to join NATO is explicitly acknowledged and encouraged by existing NATO members. The statement from the North Atlantic Council meeting about Ukraine and Georgia reads: “In light of Ukraine’s restated aspirations for NATO membership, NATO stands by its decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit and subsequent Summits.”
The NATO Bucharest Summit of 2008 was the first to offer Ukraine a path to membership in the alliance. At Bucharest, NATO members offered Georgia and Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP): “MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP.” That declaration is the one that was reinforced in the 2018 Brussels Summit declaration. Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO.
Ukraine has fought for and earned NATO membership. In over four years of warfare, the Ukrainian people have suffered terribly because of Russian invasion and occupation. The NATO statement reads: “The ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, instigated and perpetuated by Russia, remains a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security, and has produced a humanitarian catastrophe in the Donbas. This has led to the loss of more than 10,000 lives and displaced over 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens.” About 4,000 of the Ukrainians killed were men and women who served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They gave their lives in defence of the Ukrainian homeland and in defence of Europe. Ukraine has paid for its membership of NATO in blood.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, presented the facts of Ukraine’s fighting defence of the broader North Atlantic region to his peers at the NATO Brussels Summit. President Poroshenko is a forceful advocate for Ukraine’s membership in NATO. After the July 12 Georgia-Ukraine meeting of the North Atlantic Council, President Porshenko said: “No one, including the Russian Federation, will manage to block Ukraine's accession to NATO. … This is a sovereign right of the Ukrainian people.”
Russia is at war with the West. Putin’s most active theatre of war against Western democracies is in eastern Ukraine. The Armed Forces of Ukraine defend the West in battle without any NATO allies fighting alongside them. The largest country that lies wholly within Europe is being invaded by Russia, and none of the 29 NATO countries is in the fight with Ukraine.
Ukrainians are the forward defence of the broader North Atlantic region. The Ukrainian army in the trenches of Donbas is the vanguard of the West. Ukraine has successfully fought Russia to a standstill and has vastly increased its war-fighting capacity over four years. As a result, it is NATO that urgently needs to gain Ukraine as a member. Russian aggression is implacable. Putin’s War will never stop until Russia’s invasion is defeated and the occupied territories are liberated. NATO will not win this war until Ukraine is a member of the alliance. The sooner the better.
Photo: Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, and Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, in Brussels, 12.07.2018