NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, a “historic” meeting. Maybe it was… for Sweden, for Turkey and, in a way, for the United States; for Volodymyr Zelensky, the final conclusions were “good, but if there had been an invitation, it would have been ideal”.
The Ukrainian president left for Vilnius with three priorities: to obtain a new package of military support, to obtain security guarantees for Ukraine and to secure NATO membership. While the first two were achieved, the last – perhaps the most important from a strategic and motivational point of view for the Ukrainian troops – remained to be fulfilled. Without unanimity, it was decided that as long as the war lasted, there would be no conditions for Ukraine to join the organization, and there are two countries which impose this condition: the United States and the Germany. Then these two. Both have a different vision of the war from that of Ukraine and want to limit the conflict and avoid a military escalation that would lead NATO to enter a war with unforeseeable consequences.
The path to membership
On the last day of the summit, Jens Stoltenberg recalled that Ukraine is “on the road to membership”, but everyone has understood that the Atlantic Alliance is effectively divided and that the path announced will be long: “We will launch the invitation to Ukraine to join NATO when there is unanimity among the members and the conditions exist”, explained the Secretary General. In this declaration, the accession path was indicated, but no date was stipulated.
In formal terms, this decision did not go much further than what had already happened in 2008, when Ukraine received an identical invitation, this time with strong support from the United States, which didn’t happen today. The Americans continue to be the biggest suppliers of military equipment to the Ukrainians – including cluster bombs, which have generated great international discord – but they also have red lines which they do not want to cross so as not to come into direct conflict with Russia, and for this reason they preferred to leave Ukraine in limbo. This pun displeased Volodymyr Zelensky, who expected a stronger message from the West. At the end of the first day of the summit, he made harsh and moving statements. “It is unprecedented and absurd that there is neither a deadline nor an invitation for Ukraine’s accession”, declared the Ukrainian president, insisting: “Uncertainty and weakness demonstrate fragility”.
Diplomacy at the highest level worked, and the next day the Ukrainian president changed the needle and admitted that the Ukrainians realized that they could not join NATO while they were at war: ” I understand the decisions taken, nobody wants a world war”.
This is the main argument and the main concern of some Member States. Ukraine’s entry into the Atlantic Alliance could lead to the application of Article 5, which stipulates that an armed attack against one or more NATO countries will be considered an attack against all, and that they must provide assistance to the attacked country in order to guarantee security in the North Atlantic.
The summit fell short of Kyiv’s high expectations, but reinforced expressions of support for Ukraine, which managed to streamline the accession roadmap, unlike Georgia and Bosnia, which have to conform to a more comprehensive plan. At the end of the war, Ukraine entered NATO almost directly.
The G7 protects Ukraine
Aware that there was still something to say or do in Vilnius, the group of seven most industrialized countries in the world (Germany, France, United States, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan) met on the sidelines from the summit and promised long-term military aid to Ukraine by sending planes, missiles, armored vehicles and artillery.
Joe Biden called the pledge “a powerful statement” that will strengthen defense capabilities across the board.
Zelensky welcomed the decision and added, “We will build a new legally binding architecture of bilateral security treaties with the most powerful countries.” The Head of State did not miss the opportunity to say that “security guarantees are important for the Ukrainian people, but they should not replace NATO membership”.
The intention to guarantee the security of Ukraine was followed by eight other countries, which offer to ensure the supply of war material and the constant flow of ammunition.
Portugal was one of the signatories of the guarantees granted to Ukraine.
The support expressed by the G7 provoked a hysterical reaction from Moscow, with the Russian President’s enigmatic spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, saying that “this decision is a serious mistake and potentially very dangerous. By giving security guarantees to Ukraine, these countries are invading the security of the Russian Federation”, and concluded with yet another intimidation “this is a dangerous situation in the short, medium and long term”.
Swedish green light
The meeting which brought together representatives of the countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had some funny moments and an unexpected turnaround in the Swedish case.
Hours before the start of work, the idea that the summit could fail was in the air when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to veto Sweden’s entry into NATO, giving the justification following: “First, pave the way for Turkey’s accession to the European Union and then pave the way for Sweden”.
One of the main topics of the Vilnius meeting was in danger of disappearing from the agenda.
But if Erdogan’s position of strength created confusion, the pessimism would last only a few hours. In the end, the Turkish president surprised by announcing that he would send Sweden’s NATO accession protocol as soon as possible so that it could be ratified by the Turkish Parliament.
With Turkey’s obstacles removed, Sweden’s candidacy to become the 32nd member of the Atlantic Alliance is thus accepted.
Ankara gave no explanation for the shift in stance on Sweden, but US national security adviser Jake Sullivan helped explain the matter by saying the White House had asked the Pentagon for permission to sell. 40 F-16 fighters to Turkey to renew its aviation. Erdogan’s good will has therefore been explained.