NATO summit agenda to include Kiev security guarantees, not invitation
The NATO summit in Lithuania will likely not offer Ukraine a NATO membership invitation but could result in a formula for security guarantees.
The 2023 NATO Summit launched today, July 11, and will continue through July 12. According to Sputnik, the summit will mainly discuss the war in Ukraine, as it has cost NATO allies over $100 billion in taxpayer money. Moreover, the topic of the status of Ukraine, vis-a-vis the NATO alliance will also be at "center stage".
The summit, includes 40 heads of state, alongside "over 150 other high-ranking officials from 48 delegations, bringing with them an army of 2,400 diplomatic workers, paper-shuffling, number-crunching bureaucrats, and of course, military officers."
As for the security put in place for the NATO summit, Sputnik revealed that Lithuania, the host country, will provide the delegation with about 800 vehicles and deploy over 11,000 troops and police officers across Vilnius and the country. In parallel NATO troops from other countries will also be deployed, around 1000 members. That has not been all, a Combined Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) defense task force has also been deployed, reported Sputnik, while Patriot and NASAMS air defense systems were also set in place.
It has been reportedly highlighted that Ukraine sought a positive and tangible step toward officially inviting Ukraine into the alliance. However, this option, according to the report, seemed unlikely at the Vilnius summit.
Ukraine seeks NATO membership
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will potentially be attending the summit, said, earlier in January of this year, that the summit could “become fateful for our entire Euro-Atlantic community.”
Late last week, Zelensky announced that he looked forward to a “clear signal, some concrete things in the direction of an invitation” to join NATO adding that “We need this motivation."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, on Saturday, said “Several important decisions for Ukraine and NATO have already been agreed. Following the summit, our path to the alliance will definitely become shorter. And this is a very important result which – as in many other cases – we were told would not happen, but we did it together with our closest partners."
In turn, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, earlier in the month, underscored that, while reaffirming the fact that Ukraine can only possibly join NATO after the war concludes, “I expect our leaders to reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO and unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal,” adding “I’m confident that we’ll find a united way…to address the specific issue of membership."
However, Sputnik also reminded that a Ukrainian Defense Ministry advisor, who chose to remain anonymous, told UK media “Membership is not on the table and it’s too late to change the agenda,” explaining that “Turkiye and Hungary have even opposed Sweden’s accession to the alliance. It’s not going to be possible to achieve anything [on Ukraine]."
In line with that, US President Joe Biden said "I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, in the middle of a war."
Significantly, Sputnik also revealed that its sources claimed that both Germany and the US have been at the forefront of those opposed to Ukraine joining NATO while France, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and Baltic countries have sought to fast-forward Ukraine's accession to NATO.
Alternative solutions to joining NATO
Alternatively to joining NATO, negotiations were launched to offer Kiev some form of “umbrella” security assurances, which Sputnik described as "basically a continuation of what the alliance is already doing: funneling tens of billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine, plus troop training, intelligence sharing," with the addition to a “multilateral declaration of some kind with countries making individual pledges.”
In reference to UK media, Sputnik reminded that some block members suggested a formula similar to that which links the US to "Israel" allowing the block to continuously funnel weapons and equipment to Kiev without any formal or binding alliance. In the meantime, other members of the bloc considered even such "security guarantees" to be a financial risk at a time when all NATO member countries are facing a financial crisis.
Other topics on NATO summit agenda
Other than Ukraine, the NATO summit is set to discuss defense spending across the bloc. Despite the fact that only 11 out of the 31 bloc members achieved the requirement laid down at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales dictating that member countries must spend 2% or more of their GDP in defense budgets, the defense spending of Europe and Canada, in total, rose by 8.3%.
That has underscored “the biggest increase in decades,” and “the ninth consecutive year of increases in our defense spending,” Sputnik wrote before emphasizing that the alliance's defense budget exceeds not only its adversaries' budgets but also the budgets of the rest of the world combined.
Did NATO get entangled in the war in Ukraine or did it cause the war?
The Sputnik report then went on to explain that the war in Ukraine is a consequence of the "Western alliance’s decade-and-a-half long quest to pull Kiev into the bloc, despite repeated warnings by Russia that Ukrainian NATO membership was a “red line” for Moscow."
More specifically, the report explicitly clarified that the tensions began when NATO, in its 2008 summit, first "welcomed" Kiev’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership” which was considered, by Russia, a clear eastward expansion for the bloc.
In response to those aspirations, the report stated that the Ukrainian people voted out the pro-Western government in Kiev and democratically elected the government of Viktor Yanukovych, which had pledged neutrality. Only four years after the democratic elections in favor of Kiev's neutrality, "Yanukovych was overthrown in a US-backed coup d’etat," in 2014, a move that on one end prompted Crimea to "break off from Ukraine and rejoin Russia," and on the other end marked the beginning of the war in Donbas.
In turn, Russia sought a diplomatic solution and agreed to begin the Minsk negotiations resulting in the peace accords that former German Chancellor Angela Merkel later confessed was never meant to be employed but only sought to "give Ukraine time". As Kiev refused to commit to the 12-point comprehensive peace deal, and the people of the Donbas continued to suffer continued shelling and terror, Moscow proposed a security deal with the US and NATO.
When the proposal to reduce tensions, which would have been grounded in the commitment from the Western alliance to not allow Ukraine to join the bloc, failed due to the alliance's refusal to halt its "open door" policy, Moscow launched its special military operation in Ukraine.