The NATO Summit in Vilnius Must Not Be Repeated Like Bucharest 2008

Ukraine’s complicated future within the NATO alliance is once again front and center as Ukraine’s counteroffensive gains momentum and NATO leaders get ready for their next summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania. NATO must avoid repeating the mistakes made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit for the benefit of Ukraine and many of its most steadfast allies, including Poland, the Baltic states, and the United Kingdom.

Without providing a Membership Action Plan (MAP) or formal accession framework, NATO said at that summit that Ukraine and Georgia will join the alliance at a later date. Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs that “ambiguity is Putin’s best ally” was his criticism of the hollow promises made to Ukraine in Bucharest.

The ongoing conflict with Russia within Ukraine’s borders suggests that NATO will be reluctant to provide Ukraine with a formal path to membership once more, according to preliminary media reports. Like how situation developed at Bucharest, France and Germany are supportive of a ‘more slow, more wary methodology‘ that doesn’t distance Russia, while Washington is probably going to be significantly more careful too.

However, the supply of longer-range missiles that are capable of striking Crimea by Britain, Germany’s announcement of its largest aid package, and Russian forces continuing to struggle with supply shortages and infighting all have the potential to alter the situation.

Ukraine is strategically set up for its for quite some time expected counteroffensive, with its partners from Berlin, Paris, London, and Warsaw all getting down to business and conveying critical military equipment all the while.

(Picture Credit: Wikipedia)

When viewed from Moscow, Ukraine’s membership in NATO has long been the most contentious and threatening of all the former Soviet republics. The Baltic states, on the other hand, quickly broke away from Moscow in the 1990s and adopted Euro-Atlantic integration before joining NATO and the EU in 2004. Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union’s “Slavic core,” which was an integral part of Russian identity and Moscow’s proximity to the outside world in the minds of Russian leaders after the Soviet Union broke up.

The Orange Revolution of 2004 was the first genuine post-Soviet revolution in Ukraine to break with the oligarchic class and try to get closer to Europe. Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic identity has been strengthened across all of its regions, from Lviv to Kharkiv, since the Maidan Uprising of 2013–14 and the Russian annexation of Crimea.

A poll conducted in March 2023 by the International Republican Institute revealed that 82% of Ukrainians are in favor of joining the alliance, and Ukraine’s constitution was amended in 2019 to formally enshrine its commitment to joining NATO.

While it is unlikely that Ukraine will receive everything it desires at the Vilnius summit, Kyiv must keep in mind that the majority of NATO members are on its side. In the same vein as Hemingway’s well-known adage about bankruptcy, nothing changes in Europe until it does, particularly when it comes to the most contentious of Russia’s security concerns.

Although Ukraine won’t join NATO for another ten or even twenty years, it has already changed the alliance’s perspective and rekindled its spirit in numerous ways. Unfamiliar Priest Kuleba explained well in his article what Ukraine can bring to NATO, notwithstanding what NATO brings to Ukraine. For Kuleba, this means being creative with command and control, coming up with new ideas, taking initiative in the local area, and having experience dealing with hybrid threats and information warfare.

Ukraine was admitted to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 17. This is a powerful symbol because Ukraine’s flag now flies right next to those of the other NATO members.

(Picture Credit: POLITICO)

There is no “brain death” looming on the horizon, as French President Macron famously feared during the Trump presidency, given the immeasurable benefits Kyiv brings to the alliance and NATO’s determination since Russia’s invasion. Maybe there is an essential imperativeness, arranging Europe from west to east, directed by states little and enormous to confront a typical attacker with no craving for living together except for just control.

The Ukrainians, very much like the Baltic states, Poland, and numerous others, know the significance of shielding their security to flourish outside the shadow of their a lot bigger neighbor. It is time to validate Kyiv’s place in Europe as a nation of equals and one deserving of a seat at the most prestigious security table based on its numerous merits as a defender of the European order as NATO meets in Vilnius.

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