Espreso. Global

Ukraine in NATO now: risks and scenarios

14 November, 2023 Tuesday

Former NATO chief proposes Ukraine's accession without Russian-occupied territories

Rasmussen, who served as NATO Secretary General from 2009 to 2014, insisted that Ukraine's partial membership plan would not symbolize a freeze on the conflict, but instead, a determination to warn Russia that it cannot prevent Ukraine from joining the Western defense alliance.


Is this a good proposal or not?

Let's start with the fact that the proposal is not official and not from an official.

But it is not accidental at all and has one of its goals - to test the reaction of the Alliance members, Russia and, of course, the Ukrainian people.

Whether the proposal is good or not should be judged on the basis of its consequences.

But let's first assess the prospects for continuing the liberation campaign in the format where we are:

  • we are not in NATO;
  • the frontline is almost at parity, which cannot be changed without additional resources;
  • Ukraine is critically dependent on Western financial assistance (US, EU, IMF). The budget deficit for 2024 is over 40%;
  • Ukraine is critically dependent on Western military aid;
  • Ukraine is exclusively in a tactical framework (no strategy and no plan for the future).

The development of events in Ukraine in the current way depends almost entirely on the West (!!!).

Assuming that there will be no military and financial assistance tomorrow, events will develop according to the worst-case scenario...


Can a country with territorial disputes become a NATO member?

The NATO Charter does not explicitly prohibit a country with territorial disputes from joining the Alliance.

However, Article 10 of the Charter states that any country wishing to become a member of NATO must be able to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area and be prepared to accept the obligations of the Charter.

In NATO's history, there have been cases when countries with territorial disputes joined the alliance.

For example, Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, despite a territorial dispute with Greece over Cyprus.

In 2023, Finland joined NATO, which has a territorial dispute with Russia over Karelia.

So there are theoretical opportunities for Ukraine.


How long will it take for Ukraine to join NATO?

The procedure can take from several months to several years.

For example, in 2023, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in May and were accepted in July of the same year.

The speed of a new country's accession process depends on several factors, including

  • the readiness of the candidate country to join NATO;
  • the existence of territorial disputes in the candidate country;
  • the attitude of other NATO members to the candidate country's accession.

A new country does not need 100% agreement of all NATO members to join NATO.

According to Article 10 of the NATO Charter, the decision to admit a new country is taken by a 2/3 majority of all Allies.

This means that 26 out of 30 Allies need to vote in favour of a new country's accession to NATO.

And this is where the fun begins.

The countries will have to decide whether they are ready to fight on Ukraine's side in case of violation of its borders.

The weak points of the vote will be: Hungary, Romania, Turkey, possibly Germany, Montenegro.


Now let's go through the scenarios and consequences.

There can be a lot of scenarios, but let's take 4 main ones that are at the intersection of 2 stretches:

1. "Ukraine is in NATO" - "Ukraine is not in NATO".

2. "Ukraine is a subject" or "Ukraine is not a subject".

By "subject" we mean the ability of Ukraine to determine its own game (to have a strategy and partnership with the global player the United States)


Scenario 1: 'Victim'

"Ukraine is not in NATO" and "Ukraine is not a subject".

The probability is over 50%.

In fact, this is the scenario we have today.

We are critically dependent on military and financial assistance.

The future of Ukraine depends solely on the interests of the United States to maintain global hegemony and the interests of Europe to keep the Horde barbarians(Russians - ed.)away from them.

In this scenario, Ukraine's resources are maximally depleted. Financial and human. And with all the heroism of Ukrainians, we will not be able to liberate our lands on our own.

This scenario is complicated by the fatigue of our donors, our military and civilians from the war.

And the outcome of this scenario does not depend on us.


Scenario 2: 'Player'

This is a scenario at the intersection of fields: "Ukraine is a subject" and "Ukraine is not in NATO".

The probability is up to 10%.

Ukraine can be a subject and a "player" only within the framework of the US global interests, as one of the important figures on the global "chessboard".

But for this to happen, Ukraine needs to learn to clearly articulate its strategic goals and become a predictable, contractually capable partner of the United States (which Americans have great doubts about today).


Scenario 3: 'Watchtower'

"Ukraine is a NATO member", but "Ukraine is not a subject".

The probability is 30%.

Remember. Countries that do not have their own future strategy are a resource for countries that do!

The collective West is interested in having from us:

  • a controlled buffer zone with Russia;
  • to have a break to prepare for a big war (to replenish the stock of weapons and ammunition);
  • not to risk the lives of their soldiers by outsourcing it.

In this scenario, the West expects Russia to stop trying to continue its terrorist activities.

The occupied territories will not be recognised, but will "hang" indefinitely.

Ukraine will be kept afloat , but there will be no talk of investments.

Ukraine's task in this scenario is to be a "guardian of Europe" - a "physically developed guy who performs his functions for a minimum fee".

The main advantage for Ukraine in this scenario would be

  • respite to accumulate forces and resources;
  • stopping the deaths;
  • protection of the sky and resumption of air traffic with the world;
  • gradual economic recovery within the controlled territories.


Scenario 4: 'Europe's security centre'

The intersection of "Ukraine in NATO" and "Ukraine as an entity".

The probability is 20%.

This is probably the most desirable scenario, which:

  • makes Ukraine an important partner of both the EU and the US in the region (essentially, the role of South Korea in Southeast Asia);
  • gives Ukraine not only a respite but also a huge inflow of resources to restore its economy and build a strong defence industry ecosystem based on the Israeli model;
  • gives Ukraine not only an inflow of aid for reconstruction, but also significant investments (the subjective position determines that we clearly understand our priorities, create incentives for their implementation and, as a result, we become very interesting for investors).

As a result, we receive NATO protection, an influx of investments, technologies, and rapid economic growth.

Time is working in our favour in this scenario, as the negative developments in the economies of China and Russia will become more pronounced, creating opportunities for us.

In this scenario, the future of Donbas and Crimea is the future of East Germany, which has finally reunited with West Germany.


What are the conclusions?

We all need to adequately assess the strengths and resources that each scenario offers to achieve our long-term goals:

  • security guarantees;
  • restoration of the country's territorial integrity;
  • a strong economy that provides a high quality of life.

And act according to this logic.

For this reason, I would bet on scenario 4, the probability of which is much less than 20% today.


About the author. Anatoliy Amelin, co-founder and director of economic programs at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future

The editors do not always share the views expressed by the authors of the blogs. 

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