The leaders of the NATO countries gave the green light on Tuesday to several measures to promote a closer relationship between Ukraine and the Alliance, but avoided inviting Kiev to join the transatlantic organization, which provoked criticism from the Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky.
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In the declaration approved at the summit that the allies are holding this Tuesday and Wednesday in Vilnius, it is indicated that NATO will be “in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when the Allies agree and the conditions are met.”.
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Asked at a press conference about these conditions, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explained that they refer to the extent to which Ukraine has been able to modernize defense and security institutions.
He also mentioned strengthening governance, including the fight against corruption.
“These have been issues that have been addressed in all NATO enlargements because we want good governance, modern defense and security institutions and interoperable military with NATO,” he said.
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He added that the conditions also refer to a second dimension, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In that sense, he said he believes that all NATO countries agree that as long as the war continues, “this is not the time to make Ukraine a full member of the Alliance.”
He added that the importance of the declaration agreed on Tuesday in Vilnius lies in the fact that “the tools are proposed to ensure that Ukraine approaches membership” and stressed that for the first time in a statement from a NATO summit the term “is included” invitation” as “part of the language” to talk about Ukraine and withdraw the “accession action plan” (MAP) requirement for future Ukrainian entry.
Indeed, The presidents agreed on Tuesday to simplify the process of the future Ukrainian accession to NATO, by agreeing to eliminate the MAP.
According to Stoltenberg, this step means that Ukraine’s accession to NATO will go from being a “two-step” process to a “one-step” procedure.
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The Accession Action Plan is NATO’s program of practical advice, assistance and support tailored to the needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. Countries participating in the MAP submit annual national programs covering political, economic, defense, security or legal aspects.
The allies also gave the green light to a new multi-year program that guarantees the full interoperability of the Ukrainian forces with those of NATO. Thus, it will allow the transition from Soviet standards, training and doctrines to those of NATO.
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According to Stoltenberg, the plan will also help rebuild the security and defense sector of Ukraine already cover “critical” needs such as fuel, demining equipment and medical supplies.
In addition, the leaders agreed to raise the level of the political relationship through the creation of the Otán-Ukraine Council, a forum for consultation on crises and decision-making in which both parties will participate as equals.
In the communiqué approved this Tuesday, the heads of state and government stressed that the future of Ukraine “is in NATO”. Thus, they reiterate the commitment of the 2008 summit held in Bucharest, in which they assumed that Ukraine “will become a member of NATO”.
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“Today (Tuesday) we recognize that Ukraine’s path to full Euro-Atlantic integration has gone beyond the need for the accession action plan. Ukraine has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the Alliance and has achieved a substantial progress on its path of reform”, state the allies.
However, the agreements of the allies were insufficient for Zelenski, who considered “absurd” that the Alliance is not going to give an invitation date for his country to join.
Asked about it, Stoltenberg stressed that the allies “have decided today (this Tuesday) on a strong, united and positive message to Ukraine about lasting support, but also a positive message about the path to membership.”
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New goal in defense
Apart from Ukraine, the leaders agreed on a new investment goal in Defense, with which they commit to allocate at least 2% of their GDP to military spending each year.
In the adopted declaration, they also stress that “in many cases” it will be necessary for countries to invest more than 2% “to remedy the existing deficiencies and satisfy the needs in all areas derived from a more disputed security order.”
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In addition, the leaders approved a “new generation” of regional defense plans that allow the rapid defense of “any ally that is threatened”.
In addition, they gave the green light to a new action plan on defense production that aims to accelerate joint purchases, boost interoperability and increase production capacity.
In 2024, the NATO leaders will hold their summit in Washington, the US capital, while in 2025 the meeting will be in the Netherlands.
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