DECEMBER 9, 2022
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NATO to Affirm Ukraine's Irreversible Path to Membership at Washington Summit

NATO to Affirm Ukraine's Irreversible Path to Membership at Washington Summit

NATO is set to declare Ukraine's path to membership as "irreversible" during the alliance's summit currently taking place in Washington, according to a POLITICO report released on Tuesday.

The report indicates that this language is already included in a draft version of the communique scheduled for release on Wednesday. While the final text will be completed on Tuesday night, it has already received approval from the US and other key NATO members.

The inclusion of such language represents a significant development for Ukraine and a major setback for Russia, as per the POLITICO report. However, there is no indication that Ukraine will be provided with a definitive roadmap toward membership during the summit, suggesting the communique may serve as another symbolic gesture amid ongoing proxy conflicts.

Ukraine's potential NATO membership has been a critical factor behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. In the lead-up to the invasion, the US declined to seriously engage with Russia's demand for a guarantee that Ukraine would not be admitted into NATO, despite privately informing Kyiv that membership was unlikely for at least a decade.

The promise of eventual NATO membership for Ukraine was first made at a 2008 summit in Bucharest, a decision that was a major red line for Russia. At the time, then-US Ambassador to Russia William Burns, now the CIA director, cautioned against promising NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia. He noted that such a promise touched a "raw nerve" in Russia, raising significant security concerns for Moscow.

In a cable published by WikiLeaks, Burns wrote: "Not only does Russia perceive encirclement and efforts to undermine its influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests."

Since the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought a clear path to NATO membership and stronger commitments from the alliance. He expressed frustration at last year's NATO summit in Vilnius when the alliance issued a vague communique stating it "will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met."

A Ukrainian official speaking with POLITICO about this year's NATO summit indicated that other NATO members are pushing for stronger language than the US. "We’ve had sort of an agreement with the United States, so it will be really clear that the path to membership is irreversible. But other allies are really pushing for stronger wording," said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna.

"Great Britain, France, our Baltic friends all want to make sure that the wording in the declaration is stronger than what the US has pushed, and leaves no room for doubt," Stefanishyna added.

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