NATO leaders jointly affirm ‘Ukraine’s future is in NATO’ and its path is ‘irreversible’

NATO leaders jointly affirmed Wednesday that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO” and its path is “irreversible,” as they pledged long-term support for Kyiv.

The leaders did not provide a specific timeline for Ukraine to join the defensive alliance. Instead, they said they would “be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree, and conditions are met.”

“We welcome the concrete progress Ukraine has made since the Vilnius Summit on its required democratic, economic, and security reforms,” the leaders said in the Washington Summit Declaration, released after a meeting of NATO’s North Atlantic Council Wednesday.

“As Ukraine continues this vital work, we will continue to support it on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership,” the declaration said.

The declaration outlined the alliance’s ongoing support for Kyiv, including previous announcements on new air defense systems and the establishment of the “NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU) to coordinate the provision of military equipment and training for Ukraine by Allies and partners.”

The description of Ukraine’s path as “irreversible” comes after months of diplomatic negotiations in the lead up to the Washington Summit and was a point of contention among the allies. Prior to the release of the declaration, some diplomats had argued that it was not enough to just describe the path as “irreversible,” but that there must be strong support undergirding that description.

Moving the training and equipment coordination under the auspices of NATO has been seen by many as a way to ensure ongoing support for Kyiv in the case of the reelection of former US President Donald Trump. Officials have quietly expressed concerns about what a second Trump presidency could mean for the defensive alliance and for the military support for Kyiv as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues with little sign of a military or diplomatic conclusion.

There is “a growing and understandable doubt about the future of Western support” for Ukraine, a European diplomat said last week.

The aim of the NSATU “is to place security assistance to Ukraine on an enduring footing, ensuring enhanced, predictable, and coherent support,” the declaration said, noting that it “will not, under international law, make NATO a party to the conflict.”

“It will support the transformation of Ukraine’s defence and security forces, enabling its further integration with NATO,” the declaration said.

The leaders also announced “a pledge of long-term support” to Ukraine, with the intention “to provide a minimum baseline funding of €40 billion within the next year, and to provide sustainable levels of security assistance for Ukraine to prevail.”

The declaration also expressed “profound concern” over the “deepening strategic partnership” between China and Russia “and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut and reshape the rules-based international order.”

The declaration calls Beijing “a decisive enabler of Russia’s war against Ukraine through its so-called ‘no limits’ partnership and its large-scale support for Russia’s defence industrial base,” and calls on China, “as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a particular responsibility to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to cease all material and political support to Russia’s war effort.”

It noted that China “cannot enable the largest war in Europe in recent history without this negatively impacting its interests and reputation,” echoing the growing public concern from the US and European allies about Beijing’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. The declaration also said China “continues to pose systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security” through “sustained malicious cyber and hybrid activities, including disinformation.”

It recognized the Indo-Pacific as “important for NATO,” but did not suggest a strong role for the alliance in this area.

“We welcome the continued contributions of our Asia-Pacific partners to Euro-Atlantic security,” it said. “We are strengthening dialogue to tackle cross-regional challenges and are enhancing our practical cooperation, including through flagship projects in the areas of supporting Ukraine, cyber defence, countering disinformation, and technology.”

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