Allies agree to accelerate country’s path to joining alliance following weeks of high-level diplomacy by Volodymyr Zelensky
By Roland Oliphant, SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
10 July 2023 •
Nato members have agreed to accelerate Ukraine’s path to membership by allowing it to skip the Membership Action Plan usually required of prospective allies, Ukraine’s foreign minister has said.
Dmytro Kuleba announced the agreement on the eve of this week’s Nato leaders summit in Vilnius.
“Following intensive talks, Nato allies have reached consensus on removing MAP from Ukraine’s path to membership. I welcome this long-awaited decision that shortens our path to Nato. It is also the best moment to offer clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become a member,” he wrote on Twitter.
The decision follows weeks of high-level diplomacy that has seen Mr Kuleba and Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, personally visit allied governments to lobby for support for the idea.
Momentum has been building since the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London last month, when Catherine Colonna, the French foreign minister, signalled that Emmanuel Macron’s government would drop initial opposition to the idea.
The surprise move aligned Paris with a group of Nato allies including Britain, Poland and the Baltic States who have long lobbied for a demonstration of commitment to Ukraine’s future membership.
Mr Kuleba’s statement suggests the United States and Germany, who have previously distanced themselves from the idea, have also now dropped objections.
Ukrainian officials say they do not expect to join Nato until after the war with Russia is over, but have demanded a “meaningful” move towards membership at this week’s Vilnius summit of Nato leaders as a signal of commitment.
Mr Kuleba told the Telegraph last month that dropping the requirement for a membership action plan was Ukraine’s “minimum” requirement.
There remain strong divisions over whether or not Ukraine should one day enter the alliance, however.
Joe Biden said on Sunday that he did not believe Ukraine was “ready for membership in Nato” and that there was no unanimity within the alliance “about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the Nato family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war”.
Ukraine have to ‘meet the same standards’
Last month he said he was “not going to make it easy” for Ukraine to join Nato “because they have got to meet the same standards”.
A MAP is an open-ended programme of political and military reform that is meant to bring prospective Nato members in line with alliance standards. It can take years to complete and does not guarantee membership.
Ukraine was first offered eventual membership of Nato in 2008, but never given a MAP because of anxiety among some allies about alienating Russia.
North Macedonia, which began its membership action plan in 1999, eventually joined Nato in March 2020.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, the only country currently on the membership action path pathway, was invited to join a plan in 2010, but only allowed to submit its first annual report in 2018.