Nato’s allies insist the door is open for Kyiv to join, but many are deeply divided over how fast that step should be taken
8 July 2023
Germany is set to insist on delaying Ukraine’s accession to Nato over fears the move could take the alliance to war with Russia.
An alliance source said Berlin would use the annual Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this week to urge others to focus on security assurances, rather than membership proposals, to help Ukraine defend itself in the absence of accession.
“Berlin is stand-offish at the prospect of offering immediate membership,” the source told The Telegraph. “It wants a process and time to develop guarantees to essentially block membership.”
“Berlin doesn’t want to see Vladimir Putin potentially test Article 5.”
Under Nato’s alliance’s Article 5 clause, any member state attacked by an outside aggressor has the right to request military intervention from the rest of the allies.
Appearing to echo German concerns Joe Biden said he wanted to avoid a situation where “we’re all in the war, we’re in a war with Russia.”
Mr Biden added that Ukraine was “not ready” for Nato membership, and that it was “going to take a while”.
His national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “We are not seeking to start World War Three. Ukraine will not be joining Nato coming out of this summit.”
Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, has gradually ramped up his campaign for Ukraine to join Nato after Russia invaded last year, seeking to drive an unequivocal wedge between his country and Moscow.
The wartime leader has called for Nato’s 31 member states to take concrete steps towards Ukrainian membership so his country can quickly join the transatlantic alliance after the war.
Germany and the United States have privately warned the move could escalate the current conflict into an active war between Nato and Russia.
Mr Putin has often claimed that Nato’s expansion towards Russia’s borders over the past two decades was a key factor in his decision to invade Ukraine.
The Russian president has since threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the war, prompting fears of escalation in western countries.
The US, UK and EU states are currently drawing up a series of bilateral security offerings they hope will help defend Kyiv in absence of accession to Nato.
But Eastern leaders, like Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas, argue Ukraine should be offered a road map to accession at the summit on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr Biden said: “I don’t think there is unanimity in Nato about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the Nato family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war.
“If the war is going on then we’re all in the war, we’re in a war with Russia, that would be the case.”
He said a “rational path” should be laid out for Ukraine to meet qualifications for membership, including “democratisation and a whole range of other issues.”
Mr Biden said he had spoken to Mr Zelensky “at length about this” and the US would, in the meantime, be ready to provide “security a la the security we provide for Israel.
“So I think we can work it out, but I think it’s premature to say to call for a vote ‘in now’.”
The US pays between two and four billion dollars a year to Israel between 2019 and 2028 to develop its military.
Nato allies are still negotiating on what exactly will be offered to Ukraine at the summit.
In a bid to hardball his Western partners, Mr Zelensky has threatened to skip the gathering unless he can deliver good news to his people after the meeting.
He said a statement signed by Nato in Bucharest in 2008 that said the “door is open” for Kyiv is not enough.
“We need some kind of signal, a clear one,” Mr Zelensky told reporters on a trip to the Czech Republic.
“That Ukraine will be in the alliance. Not that the door is open – this is not enough.”
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, has already ruled out an official invitation for Kyiv at the summit, as expansion of the alliance requires the unanimous agreement of its 31 members.
Diplomats and officials have described their most likely offer to Kyiv as “Bucharest-plus”, in a sign it will build on their previous promise to admit Ukraine to the alliance, but not serve as an outright guarantee.
The security guarantees on the table, however, will make up for that, they add.
The US, Germany and France are understood to be working on a series of bilateral offers to concrete their support for Kyiv into legally-binding agreements.
It would cement the West’s lethal aid, as well as its training package, and future developments, such as the donation of F-16 fighter jets.
Individual national offers to Kyiv would then be placed under an umbrella agreement, a “Memorandum of Understanding”, which is endorsed by Nato and the EU
Sources said it was the “next best offer” to Kyiv, removing membership and Article 5 protection from the table for now.