Analysis

Why Ukraine’s plea for Nato membership is such a challenge for the West

Kyiv has been clear that it wants a pathway to join – but some nations are wary about moving at speed and provoking Moscow, writes Chris Stevenson

Tuesday 11 July 2023 12:01 BST
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<p>A Ukrainian serviceman of the 10th Assault Brigade Edelweiss fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions at the front line, near Bakhmut, Donetsk</p>

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 10th Assault Brigade Edelweiss fires a D-30 cannon towards Russian positions at the front line, near Bakhmut, Donetsk

For Ukraine, what it is asking for has been simple – a pathway to membership of Nato to protect its future in the wake of Russia's invasion. For its Western allies however, making that a reality is not so straightforward.

The advantages of membership for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are obvious. Article 5 of the alliance treaty is a cast-iron mutual defence clause that has US, UK and French nuclear weapons at its core. Given the vast swathes of destruction that Moscow’s aggression has wrought, being given a seat at the Nato table would also give Kyiv the extra layer of security needed during what will be a long period of reconstruction (whenever that comes).

They hoped such a pathway would be granted at a Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. But the alliance itself is not all singing from the same hymn sheet, despite repeated espousals of unity from Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and many member states. For the 31 states in Nato, it comes down to just how willing they are to provoke Moscow, and whether the oft-discussed Article 5 is something that comes instantly or if there are caveats given the fact that Ukraine is already at war. The Kremlin made clear on Monday that “Ukraine’s membership in Nato will have very, very negative consequences”.

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