NATO leaders will “send a clear and positive signal” to Kiev regarding its desire to join the military alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of a two-day summit in Lithuania. Ukraine will be able to skip one of the normal steps for candidates, he suggested.
Stoltenberg has proposed that member states “remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan (MAP)” for Kiev. This would change the accession path “from a two-step process to a one-step process,” he explained during a press conference on Tuesday.
Bypassing MAP is one of the three elements in a proposed multi-year program for Ukraine, according to the NATO chief. Another involves the country moving closer to the US-led military organization by ensuring “full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces,” meaning Kiev would predominantly use Western-made weapons.
Kiev will also be tied to NATO politically through a new Ukraine-NATO council, the inaugural meeting of which will be held on Wednesday. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky will attend the event, Stoltenberg said.
Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, have been calling on NATO to offer the nation a concrete roadmap towards NATO accession during the summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. The Ukrainian leader reportedly threatened to boycott the event unless this expectation was met.
The US and Germany have opposed nations such as Poland and the Baltic states, which have advocated for granting Kiev’s request. US President Joe Biden told CNN last week that Ukraine was not ready to join NATO.
“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden said, adding that it was “premature” for a vote on the issue.
The idea of a Ukraine-NATO council was reported by Western media ahead of the summit. A similar body was established with Russia in the late 1990s, when the organization was seeking to alleviate Moscow’s concerns over its expansion in Europe. The New York Times said “Ukraine could be playing the role inside NATO that Russia once did,” when it explained Washington’s approach to the issue last month.
The host of the event, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, urged member states to acknowledge that the treaty with Russia was “dead” as their leaders were flying to Vilnius.
NATO first promised that Ukraine would eventually join the alliance during a summit in Bucharest in 2008. Moscow warned at the time that such a move would cross a red line, since the expansion of the military bloc towards its borders constituted a threat to its national security.
Russia attempted to negotiate a partial reversal of NATO’s advancement in 2021, a year before the conflict in Ukraine started, but the proposal was rejected by the US and its allies.