It seems rather strange; after the obviously provocative agreement to accept Ukraine made in 2008, now NATO appears fairly lukewarm to the idea of Ukraine’s accession. At the recent NATO summit in Vilnius Biden made some rather cool remarks about Ukraine needing to meet the conditions for membership. No invitation was issued.
The conditions for membership include; supporting democracy including tolerating diversity, market economy, armed forces under civilian control and respect the sovereignty of their neighbours.
In order to meet the first one Ukraine will have to roll back laws passed since 2014 which ban for example the Communist party and “pro-Russian” media. They will also have to reverse laws which prioritised Ukrainian language. There is a certain irony is this. In order to join NATO Ukraine would have to undo certain legislation which, in part, indirectly, led to the war. (Or, at least, provided a justification for it in Russian minds). The serious point about all this is it reminds us that Ukraine is a divided country, a Russian leaning East and a Western leaning West and North. Obviously putting it in NATO was a foolish idea.
It isn’t mentioned in the above list, but Ukraine will also have to be economically viable and spending close to 2% of its budget on its military. In addition, there must be (or should not be) any live territorial disputes with neighbours.
There are two points. Firstly; it is obvious that it will be years, probably decades, before Ukraine would be in a state to join NATO. Secondly; all this talk about how Ukraine can only join NATO once the war is over gives Russia a veto. All Russia has to do is keep the conflict ticking over and Ukraine cannot join NATO. If Russia started their operation in part with the objective of preventing Ukraine from joining NATO why are they then going to agree to peace terms which see Ukraine joining NATO? The only way out of that is a total defeat of the Russian Federation – which really seems unlikely.
It seems to me that Western thinking is still characterised by a high degree of unreality. This is the problem when policy is made by corporate schoolboys, who think that the glossy reports that land on their desks really do depict how the world actually is.
One wonders if part of the background is that Ukraine-in-NATO was not in fact intended to be a serious offer to Ukraine. The idea was to use the suggestion to weaken Russia by saying “look we can do anything we want in your backyard and you are too weak to do anything about it”. But when it actually comes to the practical reality of having Ukraine in NATO they are not so keen. Sweden and Finland make sense – modern countries with Western standards of governance, robust economies and lovely powerful militaries, but Ukraine? Even at the best of times a very poor country, with “corruption” on a par with Russia, authoritarian politics – and now, a total recipient of military strength with nothing (other than experience) to give to NATO. You can see why Biden was quite cool.
It looks like they have been playing games again.