The following is an extract from a speech by Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlining the case for Ukraine’s NATO membership. The speech was given in Vilnius on 14 June 2023.
Next month, NATO leaders will meet in Vilnius,
Personally, I would be in favor of extending an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO. I have been reflecting carefully on this issue because it would be the first time that we invite into NATO a country that is at war. That requires careful consideration.
I have reached this conclusion for three reasons. First: In 2008 we decided that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. But we did not provide a roadmap. Now Ukraine has been in the waiting room for 15 years. It is not a safe place. The waiting room is surrounded by a gang of thugs, who are attacking those staying in the waiting room. Time has come to move Ukraine into a safe place – as we are doing with Finland and Sweden.
Second: It is often argued that the prospect of NATO enlargement incited Putin. The truth is the opposite. It was the failure to extend security guarantees to Ukraine that incited Putin. Grey zones are danger zones. Neutrality provides no security. Finland and Sweden realized that.
Third: Often I hear the argument that we cannot give Ukraine neither security guarantees, nor membership of NATO, while there is a war going on. That is an extremely dangerous argument. If you make security guarantees and NATO membership dependent on cessation of hostilities, you are giving Putin an incentive to continue the war to prevent Ukrainian membership of NATO.
By extending an invitation now, we are telling Putin: Ukraine will become a member of NATO. You cannot stop this process. Our door is open for Ukraine, and you are not the doorman.
If allies cannot find consensus on an invitation to Ukraine in Vilnius, the second-best option would be to outline the path towards NATO membership in two steps.
First step would be to remove a Membership Action Plan as a prerequisite for taking the next step towards NATO membership. We did not require a Membership Action Plan for Finland and Sweden. The same accelerated path should be offered to Ukraine. The Ukrainian army is probably the most combat ready army in Europe.
Next step could be a pledge in Vilnius to review the question of NATO enlargement at the NATO summit in Washington DC next year, where we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of NATO.
Let me stress: An invitation to Ukraine does not imply accession overnight. After the invitation, we will have to work out several practicalities regarding article 5 of the NATO treaty. Which area will be covered by article 5? How will we react if and when there will be new clashes between Ukraine and Russia in the occupied territories?
In the best case, those issues will be solved by the Ukrainians themselves, when they kick all Russian troops from Ukrainian soil. If not, we will have to find appropriate answers to these questions. They are serious topics for allies that take article 5 and the security guarantees seriously. We must find the right solution for commitments that could include the deployment of troops and military equipment to Ukraine.
Regardless, Ukraine will need security guarantees until the it is a full member of NATO. We need strong measures to deter any further Russian aggression.
That is the purpose of the Kyiv Security Compact that I co-authored with President Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff Andrii Yermak. These security guarantees will not replace Ukrainian membership of NATO. But they will build the bridge and protect Ukraine until it is covered by NATO’s article 5.