Written by Éléonore Daxhelet
Edited by Miguel Andres Reyes Castro
On the 12 June 2023, a French Defence Council examined the possibility of an accession of Ukraine to NATO once the war is over (Pietralunga & Ricard, 2023). Paris used to be reluctant, alongside Berlin and Washington (Pietralunga & Ricard, 2023; Smolar, 2023). France now regards Kiev’s membership as a viable option to guarantee security in Europe in the coming years (Pietralunga & Ricard, 2023). This recent change of mind also expresses a determination to increase pressure on Moscow to halt its war in Ukraine. It further conveys France’s support to Kiev at a time when its counter-offensive is facing difficulties (Pietralunga & Ricard, 2023)
Ukraine’s membership in NATO has been defended by many member states, notably from Central and Eastern Europe, like Poland and the Baltic States (Pietralunga & Ricard, 2023). This enlargement is also backed by the European Parliament, which demanded NATO on 15 June to invite Ukraine to join (European Parliament, 2023). A month ago, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, announced that all members had agreed on an eventual future entry of Ukraine into the organisation (Sabbagh & Rankin, 2023).
France’s recent opening is part of a broader momentum in favour of Ukrainian membership. In May, President Emmanuel Macron already declared that Ukraine needed guarantees it would eventually join the Alliance (Ward & Bayer, 2023). U.S. President Joe Biden also said he was open to facilitate Kiev’s accession to the organization, removing the Membership Action Plan (Ward & Bayer, 2023). This plan consists of a series of military and democratic reforms prior to accession, extending the adhesion pathway’s time. This recent impetus within NATO member states demonstrates a desire to strengthen the alliance position in Ukraine and force Russia to the negotiating table.
NATO’s relations with Ukraine date back to the 1990s and the fall of the Soviet Union (NATO, 2023). Several cooperation plans have been signed between the two parties throughout the decade. During the Bucharest Summit in 2008, the allied declared: “NATO welcomes the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia (…). Today we have decided that these countries will become members of NATO” (Smolar, 2023). However, France, in line with Germany, disproved any further inclusion of Ukraine in the Alliance.
The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 brought to an intensification of cooperation between NATO and Ukraine (NATO, 2023). The Alliance’s support further increased when Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, with member states providing weapons to the Ukrainian army to defend its territory. In September 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskiy officially announced Ukraine’s application for NATO membership. He declared “We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure” (Harding & Koshiw, 2022).
European Parliament. (2023, June 15). Le Parlement demande à l’OTAN d’inviter l’Ukraine à rejoindre l’Alliance [Press release]. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/press-room/20230609IPR96214/le-parlement-demande-a-l-otan-d-inviter-l-ukraine-a-rejoindre-l-alliance.
Harding, L. & Koshiw, I. (2022, September 30). Ukraine applies for NATO membership after Russia annexes territory. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/ sep/30/ukraine-applies-for-nato-membership-after-russia-annexes-territory.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2023, June 2). Relations with Ukraine. NATO. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_37750.htm.
Pietralunga, C. & Ricard, P. (2023, June 20). La France se résout à soutenir l’adhésion de l’Ukraine à l’OTAN. Le Monde. https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2023/06/20/la-france-se-resout-a-soutenir-l-adhesion-de-l-ukraine-a-l-otan_6178374_3210.html.
Sabbagh, D. & Rankin, J. (2023, April 21). All NATO members have agreed Ukraine will eventually join, says Stoltenberg. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/apr/21/all-nato-members-have-agreed-ukraine-will-eventually-join-says-stoltenberg.
Smolar, P. (2023, April 29). Divergences occidentales sur une adhésion de l’Ukraine à l’OTAN. Le Monde. https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2023/04/29/divergences-occidentales-sur-une-adhesion-de-l-ukraine-a-l-otan_6171478_3210.html.
Ward, A. & Bayer, L. (2023, June 16). European officials support plan that could ease Ukraine’s move into NATO. Politico. https://www.politico.com/news/2023/06/16/europe-ukraine-joining-nato-00102416