Cracks in NATO

The Polish and Baltic governments will push NATO’s pledge of Kiev’s membership at the July Summit in Vilnius and consider sending troops to Ukraine. Berlin will agree to security guarantees.

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/KIEV (Own report) – In the run-up to the July 11-12 NATO summit in Vilnius, the dispute over Ukraine’s accession to the western military alliance and possible security guarantees for Kiev is heating up. Whereas Poland and the Baltic states continue to insist on Ukraine’s NATO membership – which was supposed to be concretized in Vilnius – US President Joe Biden, according to reports, has informed his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda that Washington will not permit Ukraine to join; that would be a “red line.” France’s President, Emmanual Macron is urging that an alternative of “tangible and credible security guarantees” be decided at the NATO summit. German Chancellor Scholz is essentially in agreement. If there is no concretization on Ukraine’s membership in Vilnius, some of the “hardcore” allies may take things into their own hands, warns former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is serving as advisor to the Ukrainian president on the future European security architecture. Such a renegade undertaking – at the national level – could also include stationing troops from NATO members in Ukraine.

Targeting NATO Membership

The demand that Ukraine become a member of NATO – even if only when the war is over, because otherwise the military alliance would be directly entering the war – is still being advocated, unaltered, by countries in Eastern Europe, particularly, by Poland and the Baltic countries. The Lithuanian parliament, for example, passed a resolution on April 6 calling for offering Kiev membership already at the July 11 – 12 NATO summit in Vilnius.[1] On Monday, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda declared, in the runup to his talks in Paris with France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, that Ukraine would like to have “a very concrete perspective ... of joining the North Atlantic Alliance.” He hopes that the NATO summit in Vilnius will “send a positive message to Kiev, (...) that Ukraine’s future membership in NATO is clearly visible.”[2] Back on May 4, the Speakers of the Latvian and Estonian Parliaments, Edwards Smiltēns und Lauri Hussar announced that the Baltic countries and Poland were preparing a joint declaration supporting Ukraine’s accession to NATO, concretely in the context of the upcoming Vilnius summit.[3]

Only Formally in Agreement

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has given the impression on several occasions that Ukraine’s admission is consensus within the alliance. “I cannot say exactly when Ukraine will become a member,” he recently said in an interview with the Second German Public Television ZDF, “but what I can say, is that all member states are in agreement that it will join.”[4] This is true, in as much as NATO had opened the membership perspective, in principle, at the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, and this decision has never been revoked, on the contrary repeatedly reaffirmed.[5] That, of course, does not mean that Ukraine will obtain membership in the near, or even the remotely foreseeable future. It can be delayed at will; NATO could also alter this decision. Hungary is not the only one to speak out against concrete NATO membership. It had already slowed Finland and Sweden’s admission to NATO and is in a serious conflict with Kiev over the question of the Hungarian-speaking minority in Southwestern Ukraine. The United States is the one to take the strongest position against Ukraine joining NATO, even though it does not do so publicly.

Washington’s Red Lines

This had been reported recently in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), quoting unnamed “influential persons” from Eastern Europe, who obviously have intimate knowledge about the meeting US President Joe Biden had had with his Polish counterpart, Duda, on February 21 in Warsaw. According to this source, Biden “in direct talks” with Duda, at that time, “drew two red lines.” One was that the United States “would send no more troops to the eastern flank”, and the other was that “Ukraine may not become a member of NATO.” Washington’s “unambiguous commitment” has triggered “anger and resentment” in ‘Eastern Europe, the FAZ reported.[6] However, this corresponds to the Biden administration’s increasingly apparent intention not to burden the US election campaign with new unpopular promises of billions to the Ukrainian military, but rather, following the Ukrainian offensive – which in the meantime has begun – to transition to negotiations with Moscow and a rapid ceasefire. ( reported.[7]) A NATO commitment to a rapid Ukrainian membership following the war would thwart the US plan. Russia would hardly agree to negotiations.

Security Guarantees for Kiev

Alternatively, Ukraine should be provided security guarantees from the Western nations. It is unclear how these would look. It was among the topics in the talks between Macron, Duda and Scholz on Monday evening in Paris. Various models are up for debate. One was elaborated by the former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Zelenskyy’s cabinet director Andriy Yermak in mid-September (“The Kyiv Security Compact”[8]). According to this plan, Ukraine should be provided everything it needs – state-of-the-art weaponry and a specially trained armed forces – to ensure its own defense against another Russian incursion. To this end, the NATO members must not only deliver weapons, but train its soldiers and perfection their combat readiness with joint combat exercises. Ukraine must also be aided in developing an extremely efficient armament industrial basis, permitting it to independently produce, at least partially, the weapons necessary. Germany’s Rheinmetall conglomerate would gladly play a key role in assisting in the establishment of this armament industrial basis. ( reported.[9]) Simultaneously, as many western states as possible should issue binding commitments of mutual assistance.

Send Troops

Apparently, there is consensus that Ukraine should receive security guarantees. Before his meeting with Macron and Duda on Monday evening in Paris, Chancellor Scholz declared: “It is evident that we need something like this, and we need it in a very concrete form.”[10] The pressure to pronounce such assurances already during the NATO summit in Vilnius, is increasing. President Macron is calling for a rapid agreement on “tangible and credible security guarantees.”[11] Former NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, who is advising Zelenskyy on Ukraine’s position in the future European security structure, is now warning that if guarantees are not forthcoming in Vilnius, a group of “hardcore” allies – meaning Poland and the Baltic countries – may take matters into their own hands and push even further in their support of Kiev, with a “coalition of the willing,” and possibly even consider stationing troops on the ground on a national basis.[12] In any case, they are determined to put through at least a clear path for Ukraine towards NATO membership. It is unclear, if Macron and Scholz had been able to dissuade Duda Monday evening or, at least, to persuade him to refrain from sending Polish troops into Ukraine. Rasmussen considers that this conflict is endangering NATO’s unity that, up to now, has been maintained.


[1] Lithuania To Seek Invite For Ukraine To Join NATO At July Summit. 06.04.2023.

[2] Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzler Scholz, Präsident Macron und Präsident Duda anlässlich des Treffens der Staats- und Regierungschefs im Format „Weimarer Dreieck“ am 12. Juni 2023 in Paris.

[3] Baltics and Poland to Back Ukraine’s membership of NATO. 04.05.2023.

[4] Stoltenberg: Alle einig – auch Deutschland. 01.06.2023.

[5] Nikolas Busse: Rote Linie der NATO. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02.06.2023.

[6] Thomas Gutschker: Suche nach Sicherheitsgarantien. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06.06.2023.

[7] See also „Untragbare Opfer“ und Nach der Offensive.

[8] Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Andrii Yermak: The Kyiv Security Compact. International Security Guarantees for Ukraine: Recommendations. Kyiv, 13 September 2022.

[9] See also Eine rüstungsindustrielle Basis für die Ukraine.

[10] Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzler Scholz, Präsident Macron und Präsident Duda anlässlich des Treffens der Staats- und Regierungschefs im Format „Weimarer Dreieck“ am 12. Juni 2023 in Paris.

[11] Michaela Wiegel, Gerhard Gnauck: Plötzlich ist das Weimarer Dreieck wieder wichtig. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 13.06.2023.

[12] Patrick Wintour: Nato members may send troops to Ukraine, warns former alliance chief. 07.06.2023.