Alliance Leaders Demonstrate Determination to Protect Ukraine

A decision on the issue of Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been postponed.

Nevertheless, it is important to continue and strengthen support for Ukraine to help it win victory over Russia, and to create an environment in which Ukraine’s NATO membership can be realized.

The hope is that NATO members and Japan will ensure the long-term, steady implementation of support.

NATO held a summit in Lithuania and issued a joint statement. The biggest focus of the meeting was Ukraine’s path to future membership.

The statement emphasized that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” but only noted the group would proceed with membership procedures for Ukraine “when Allies agree and conditions are met.”

NATO, which comprises 31 countries in Europe and North America, has a collective security system. Under such a system, an attack against one member state is considered an attack against all members, who can act together to launch counteroffensives. If Ukraine joins NATO in the future, this system will be the greatest deterrent to prevent another Russian invasion.

Because of this situation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked NATO for a concrete road map and timeline for Ukraine’s future membership. Zelenskyy was apparently not satisfied with the wording of the NATO statement.

However, it is also true that the current situation, in which intense fighting with Russia continues in Ukraine without prospects of a ceasefire, makes it difficult to proceed with membership discussions. During the talks, the United States and Germany reportedly advocated a cautious approach to avoid a situation that could develop into a war between NATO as a whole and Russia.

On the other hand, the members said in the joint statement, “We will continue our support for as long as it takes,” and plans were unveiled to establish a comprehensive multiyear support program.

NATO also will establish a framework in which Ukraine will be able to participate in consultations on an equal footing with alliance members to ensure closer communication.

It is significant that NATO members maintained unity at the summit.

In addition, the Group of Seven advanced nations, which includes Japan, clearly stated their sustained support for Ukraine in a joint declaration, emphasizing the group’s long-term commitment to military aid and reconstruction assistance.

Russia may be expecting that the prolonged aggression will cause “aid fatigue” or disarray in the unity among the United States, Europe and Japan, but it is wide of the mark.

Immediately before the NATO summit, Turkey, which had blocked Sweden’s membership, reversed its policy and NATO is likely to expand to a 32-member alliance. This means that NATO’s defense posture regarding Russia will be strengthened.

Russia used the threat of NATO as an excuse to invade Ukraine, thereby worsening its own security environment. It must be said that this is a natural result of its own deeds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2023)