Yuri Poluneev
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Outcome of the NATO Summit in Vilnius: Ukraine

Yuri Poluneev is a London-based independent Ukrainian analyst with a focus on international economy, post-Soviet economies and geopolitical risks, with international experience in project finance, multilateral financial institutions, policy making as well as financial and central bank regulation.  Formerly Executive Director of the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, deputy Head of the Supervisory Board of the National Bank of Ukraine and member of Parliament.


The Vilnius summit outcome has important implications for Ukraine's bid to join the Alliance. While official statements released to the public are cautiously optimistic, a deeper analysis reveals complex dynamics at play.

NATO's Open-Door policy has been a constant of Alliance policy for decades.  Its application has varied but its reaffirmation at Vilnius is a promising development for Ukraine's aspirations. Nonetheless, whether this theoretical openness will translate into concrete membership for Ukraine any time soon remains uncertain, given the political, military, and economic reforms that the country still needs to undertake. Plus, another significant factor is the Alliance cohesion and its internal dynamics. The unanimity rule requires all existing members to agree on the admission of a new member. The level of practical if not political support for Ukraine's membership varies within the Alliance, with some members cautious about provoking Russia or taking on new security commitments.

Timing. Although Ukraine first applied to join NATO over 15 years ago, Ukraine will not join the Alliance before the war in Ukraine ends; countries cannot join while territorial disputes remain outstanding. However, Ukraine is looking for NATO allies to send a strong signal that its membership bid is in progress.

There are differing opinions among NATO allies about what they can offer Ukraine. Some allies, including the United States, Germany, and southern European countries, are cautious about promising future membership without practical steps to follow. Other allies, including the Baltic nations, Poland, and central European allies, believe Ukraine has proven its worth to NATO on the battlefield and that its growing military capabilities would serve the Alliance well in deterring future Russian aggression. A compromise position, favoured by France, and northern European nations, is to go further than previous promises but stop short of immediate accession. For instance, President Macron has suggested granting Ukraine a membership "path".  The United Kingdom is more forward with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expressing support for a fast-tracked accession process without a conventional Membership Action Plan on the basis that once the war is over Ukraine belongs in NATO.

Ukraine’s Defence Reforms. NATO's increased emphasis on member states' defence capabilities indirectly puts pressure on Ukraine to accelerate its defence reforms. It also underscores the importance of Ukraine meeting the Alliance's standards in areas such as rule of law, democratic governance, and military readiness.

The Russia Factor.  Ukraine’s bid has obvious geopolitical implications. Russia has historically been strongly opposed to NATO's eastward expansion, and this has been an influential factor in the Alliance's previous decisions since membership implies a commitment to defend its territory.  The language used in official communications from NATO seems to acknowledge this delicately, emphasizing the "open door policy" while also stressing the importance of regional security and stability. While the Alliance remains committed to countering Russian aggression, it also seeks to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Ukraine's admission to NATO, a core national security issue for Russia (at least under Putin), will have to be managed delicately within this balancing act.

Public Sentiment in Ukraine. Although not directly addressed in the official statements, public sentiment towards NATO in Ukraine is another crucial factor. Public opinion in Ukraine has been increasingly supportive of NATO membership, but with significant regional variations, including in Russian-speaking areas. NATO will likely monitor this closely, as public support in aspirant countries is a key consideration for membership.

G7 Security Guarantees. The most important decision made at the summit. The issue of providing security guarantees or assurances to Ukraine against future Russian aggression was not only discussed at the summit but crucially found its culmination in the G7 Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine, a document signed by G7 and Ukraine and to be ratified by respective parliaments. The following are the main contours of emerging collective security framework for Ukraine:

Strong Support for Ukraine: The Group of Seven (G7) leaders have expressed unwavering support for a free, independent, democratic, and sovereign Ukraine that is capable of defending itself and deterring future aggression.

Condemnation of Russia: The G7 leaders denounce Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a threat to international peace and security and a violation of international law, particularly the UN Charter. They deem this act incompatible with their security interests.

Security Arrangements and Assistance: G7 countries are prepared to engage in bilateral agreements and security commitments to support Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This includes providing security assistance, modern military equipment, intelligence sharing, support for cyber defence, and resilience initiatives. This is what NATO member states already committed at the summit:

🇬🇧 Britain - thousands of rounds of ammunition for Challenger 2 tanks, more than 70 CVRT combat vehicles, including FV103 Spartan, FV107 Scimitar, FV106 Samson tracked vehicles; repair of equipment and creation of a rehabilitation centre.
🇩🇪 Germany - two Patriot systems, 40 Marder infantry vehicles, 25 Leopard 1A5 tanks, five Bergepanzer 2 repair vehicles and 20 thousand pieces of artillery ammunition.
🇫🇷 France - SCALP long-range missiles (analogous to Storm Shadow), according to media reports - 50 units.
🇳🇴 Norway - two NASAMS air defence systems, namely two additional fire control centres, two launchers and spare parts, as well as one thousand Black Hornet reconnaissance drones.
🇦🇺 Australia - 30 Bushmaster armoured vehicles.
🇨🇦 Canada - armoured vehicles, but it is not yet known what kind.
🇯🇵 Japan - a drone detection system.
✈️ A coalition of 11 countries has also been formed to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters. Training will begin in late summer.

Economic Support: The G7 is committed to strengthening Ukraine's economic stability and resilience, assisting with reconstruction and recovery efforts, and bolstering Ukraine's energy security.

Reform Support: G7 countries will provide technical and financial support to help Ukraine implement effective reforms that will support good governance and advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Response to Future Russian Aggression: In case of future Russian aggression, the G7 intends to consult with Ukraine on appropriate responses and to provide swift and sustained security and economic assistance. They plan to impose economic and other costs on Russia and ensure Ukraine can exercise its right of self-defence.

Accountability for Russia: The G7 is committed to holding Russia accountable for its aggression, including through sanctions, export controls, and supporting efforts to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and other international crimes committed against Ukraine.

Reparations: The G7 will immobilize Russia’s sovereign assets in their jurisdictions until Russia pays for the damage it has caused to Ukraine. The G7 is exploring options for an international mechanism for reparations due to Russian aggression.

Ukraine’s Commitments: Ukraine commits to contributing positively to partner security, continuing its implementation of various reforms (including law enforcement, judiciary, anti-corruption, and economic), and advancing defense reforms and modernization.

EU’s Role and Potential Membership: The EU and its member states express readiness to contribute to the support effort. The text also mentions Ukraine's potential future membership in the Euro-Atlantic community.

Open Invitation to Other Countries: Other countries wishing to contribute to the effort to ensure a free, strong, independent, and sovereign Ukraine are welcomed to join the joint declaration at any time. And several countries have already expressed their willingness to join.

While the NATO Summit in Vilnius was overall a positive step forward for Ukraine's membership bid, significant hurdles remain. The process is likely to be lengthy and complex, contingent not just on Ukraine's own progress, but also on geopolitical dynamics.  Importantly the G7 commitment provides an important (and hopefully reassuring) supplement to discussion within the Alliance.


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