Support for Ukraine’s Nato bid strengthens but timeline unclear

Compromise between Kyiv's desires and what the alliance can offer expected to be announced at next Nato summit in Lithuania

From left, Polish President Andrzej Duda, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a joint press conference in Paris. Reuters
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France has reportedly started to consider the possibility of Ukraine becoming a full member of the Nato military alliance as a way to incentivise negotiations between Ukraine and Russia and push Moscow to end the war – a shift in thinking that might soon find an echo in Berlin, analysts have told The National.

“There is a shift in the diplomatic process, a co-ordinated convergence of views on what to offer to Ukraine,” said Rafael Loss, co-ordinator of pan-European data projects at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Nato has promised Ukraine repeatedly that it will respond positively to its desire to join the alliance.

But it is widely viewed that this will not be possible until its war with Russia is over due to Article five of Nato’s treaty, which says that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.

A compromise between Ukraine’s desires and what the alliance can offer is expected to be announced at Nato’s next summit in Lithuania on July 11 and 12.

There are signals that Washington, Paris and Berlin are ready to offer Kyiv increased security guarantees and accelerate Ukraine’s path towards joining Nato – but this would also take time.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday announced that a Nato-Ukraine council would be inaugurated at the Lithuania summit in which Kyiv will be treated as an equal partner.

Quoting two US officials, news website Politico on Thursday reported that US President Joe Biden would welcome the removal of a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine’s entry into the military alliance.

The plan requires a candidate country to make reforms before its candidacy can be accepted. Should this requirement be removed, Ukraine would still have to make some reforms but could then join Nato at any point, as long as there is a unanimous decision to allow it in.

France also signalled that it was willing to allow Ukraine into the alliance as a way of encouraging negotiations after Ukraine's counteroffensive ends and possibly barring Moscow from attempting a new invasion in the future, according to an article published on Monday French daily Le Monde.

The newspaper highlighted that this is a “real conversion” for France, which used to argue that allowing Ukraine to join Nato would be perceived as a declaration of war against Russia.

Paris reportedly clarified its position at a meeting in Paris on June 12 between French President Emmanuel Macron, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“Guarantees for Ukraine are currently being discussed at senior level,” said Mr Duda at a press conference shortly before the meeting. Poland is a strong ally of Ukraine and is also lobbying for its rapid inclusion in Nato.

Germany has historically been more cautious in its military support for Kyiv since the Russian invasion began in February 2022 but is likely to follow suit in the coming weeks, said Mr Loss.

“Supporting Ukraine’s bid to join Nato is an idea that has been floated in Berlin but’s it is not yet a formal position,” he said.

But such positioning might not mean much if Russia does not want to negotiate a settlement to the conflict, warned Mr Loss.

“I’m not sure that either Paris or Berlin have a diplomatic plan B for when Russia continues to show no interest in negotiations.”

Updated: June 21, 2023, 7:32 AM