NATO to Unveil ‘Bridge to Membership’ for Ukraine: US Official
NATO to Unveil ‘Bridge to Membership’ for Ukraine: US Official

By Andrew Thornebrooke

NATO will unveil a plan to help prepare Ukraine to assume the responsibilities of membership in the alliance during its annual summit in Washington, next week.

The deliverable is not a plan for membership outright, but will consist of “standing up an entire command” to ensure Ukraine can fully contribute to NATO in the event it does join, a senior Biden administration official told reporters on July 5.

“Allies will reaffirm that Ukraine’s future is in NATO [and] will make significant new announcements about how we’re increasing NATO’s military, political, and financial support for Ukraine,” the official said.

The effort is part of a larger “bridge to membership” which is designed to help Ukraine assume military responsibilities within NATO “on day one” of its membership.

Though Ukraine has sought membership in the defensive alliance for some time, it is unlikely to be approved anytime soon, as membership is contingent upon a unanimous vote of all member states and requires new member states to meet certain standards of governance and territorial integrity.

Preventing Ukraine from joining NATO has also been a key war aim of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Mr. Putin has said that the objectives of the conflict are to demilitarize Ukraine and compel its neutrality in international affairs.

The U.S. official, however, quoted President Joe Biden, who previously said that Ukraine’s membership in NATO was a question of when rather than if.

As such, the official said, the United States and many of its allies will be working next week to “institutionalize” Ukraine’s military ties to NATO through 20–30 bilateral security agreements that would be announced by Ukraine and various NATO member states.

The United States will also announce a key deliverable, the official said, to “help Ukraine with training coordination, equipment coordination, logistics, [and] support development.”

“It will have a political overlay to it, which will focus on defense, institution building, and interoperability with NATO, and it’ll have a financial pledge associated with it as well.”

Establishing a robust institutional framework to help fund Ukraine’s security needs has become a key goal of the Biden administration and its allies, who have said that a second Trump administration could threaten the flow of weapons to embattled Ukraine.

Such fears largely stem from former President Donald Trump’s critique of NATO, including that European partners in the alliance do not meet their financial obligations.

That situation has shifted dramatically in recent years, however. A fact that the official was quick to point out.

Since the beginning of the Biden administration, the official said, the number of NATO nations spending at least two percent of their GDP on defense has risen sharply from nine to 23.

“That direction of travel is significant,” the official said. “And … to put a dollar figure on it, just since 2020 NATO collectively has spent an additional $180 billion on a yearly basis.”

NATO will convene its 75th annual summit on July 9.

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