As Ukraine’s prospects of soon joining the largest security alliance in the world are dashed by Russia’s attack on the nation, NATO defense ministers gathered on Thursday to discuss future relations with that nation.
The ministers were also scheduled to attend a separate meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Contact Group at NATO’s headquarters. Supporters of Ukraine frequently attend this group in an effort to raise funds for guns and ammunition to aid Kyiv in its defense against the Russian incursion.
Just under a month from now, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his international colleagues will meet in Lithuania for a summit as a symbolic show of solidarity for Ukraine. In the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts to extend the war to the west, they are likely to emphasize their resolve to take action.
Ukraine will eventually join NATO, and the alliance agreed to this in 2008, although it did not specify when membership negotiations would begin.
Ukraine submitted a “accelerated accession” application to NATO on September 30 as the conflict continued. It’s unclear what Ukraine’s boundaries would even look like with the Crimean Peninsula taken and portions of the south and east held by Russian forces and pro-Moscow insurgents.
There is no unanimity, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, for the country to join while at war with Russia.
“We agree that the most urgent task now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation because unless Ukraine prevails and can continue as a democratic state in Europe, there is no membership issue to be discussed at all,” he said, ahead of the meeting.
Stoltenberg said that he expects the 31-nation alliance to “agree (to) a multi-year program where we help to move Ukraine to transition from old standards, equipment, procedures, doctrines to NATO standards and become fully interoperable with NATO.”
Additionally, NATO is improving ties with Ukraine. The NATO-Ukraine Commission, which will convene later on Thursday, will be transformed into a NATO-Ukraine Council, giving the nation a seat at the table with the other 31 members.
Although partners collectively and individually do contribute arms and ammunition, NATO has no formal presence in Ukraine and solely provide nonlethal assistance to Kiev.