The upcoming NATO summit which is being held in the Lithuanian capital on July 11-12, will bring together leaders and representatives from member nations, including the Big Four: Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, and Rishi Sunak.
This year's summit will be critical for Kyiv as the main focus will be on discussions and hopefully decisions around Ukraine's potential membership of NATO
The first-ever Ukraine-NATO Council will take place on the second day of the summit. It will serve as a platform for agreeing enhanced collaboration between Kyiv and the alliance. Its formation is aimed at providing Ukraine with broader access to NATO resources.
The attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the summit remains uncertain, as his aide has earlier emphasized that he will only participate if NATO formally extends an invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance.
Previously, Joe Biden acknowledged that some NATO members consider it impractical to admit Ukraine while the war persists. Nonetheless, this doesn't rule out the possibility of extending an invitation at a later stage.
Ukraine's primary goal is to join NATO as soon as possible, granting it access to the alliance's Article 5 clause, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
However, many allies within the alliance believe that Ukraine should only join after the war ends, at the earliest. Therefore, the major powers within NATO have been working on a mechanism to provide adequate stop-gap security commitments to Ukraine in the meantime.
From the summit, Ukraine expects at least the adoption of a clear roadmap for future its NATO membership and clarity on exactly what security guarantees will be provided and by whom until that time.
The early win
Before the summit even began there was good news for Ukraine as a key hurdle to the country's membership of NATO was lifted.
A Western official told AFP that the allies "are set" to drop the Membership Action Plan required for Ukraine's application to join the alliance.
Ukraine's foreign minister said the diplomatic move – which Moscow said would have serious consequences for European security – would shorten Kyiv's path to NATO membership, even though Ukraine must still undertake reforms before joining.
"NATO allies have reached consensus on removing MAP from Ukraine's path to membership," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Security guarantees within the 'umbrella framework'
In an effort to provide reassurance to Kyiv ahead of its NATO membership, the country's allies, including the United States, Britain, Germany, and France, have engaged in negotiations aimed at establishing a "coalition of the willing to help." This coalition aims to offer Kyiv the security commitments it has been seeking.
These commitments, according to diplomats, would exist outside the scope of NATO's framework and would not oblige these nations to deploy troops in defense of Ukraine in the event of another attack.
The idea is to establish a comprehensive “umbrella framework” encompassing all nations that are willing to offer military assistance to Ukraine, even though there may be variations in the specific arrangements from country to country.
According to Politico, which cited sources familiar with the topic, a small group of Western countries was engaged in "frantic, last-minute” negotiations to finalize the format of an “umbrella framework” security assurance declaration over the last couple of days.
According to a second NATO diplomat cited in a Politico report, an upcoming meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London on Monday, July 10, will be dedicated to discussing and ironing out any remaining issues regarding the final agreement.
Accelerated accession for Ukraine
The BBC quoted sources as saying it is probable that NATO will exempt Kyiv from undergoing the so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP), which is a formalized process that lays down the milestones an aspiring member has to reach before accession.
The Israeli scenario
In May, the WSJ, citing its own sources, reported that another potential approach being considered was to develop an arrangement similar to that between the US and Israel, whereby there is a ten-year agreement for Washington to provide an annual $3.8 billion worth of military assistance to its “client.”
Such a comprehensive agreement may also encompass other elements such as intelligence sharing, training initiatives, and the revitalization of the client’s, in this case Ukraine's, domestic arms industry.
Western partners consider that the security guarantees of Great Britain, the USA, Germany and France might be prepared to offer could act as an alternative to NATO membership in the interim.
Critics of such a plan, including Ukrainian political analyst Mykola Davydiuk, contend that there is no comparison between the situations faced by Israel and Ukraine. He suggests that Ukraine, which has expended $42 billion worth of military aid this year alone, is not looking for support to keep the war going. Israel is constantly at war, and Ukraine is striving for peace.
At the same time, countries in Eastern Europe have made it clear that any such agreements should not serve as a permanent substitute for Ukraine's eventual NATO membership. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted, "The most effective and cost-efficient security guarantee is NATO membership."
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