October 2022Opinion2022

How Ukraine’s Possible NATO Accession Will Change Eastern Europe

George Slowey
Staff Writer

In the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has formally requested to have his country’s application for NATO membership fast-tracked, reports Politico. After months of consideration by Ukraine and its western allies, it seems that the war-torn country has finally decided where it wants to be in the future. Western allies have already been providing Ukraine with aid, both military and humanitarian, making the decision to join NATO a no-brainer. Whether or not the other NATO countries will accept Ukraine is another matter altogether. 

Should Ukraine continue with its wish to join the NATO bloc, it will need to gain the legislative approval of all thirty members—thirty-two if Finland and Sweden clear the final roadblocks of Hungary and Turkey and join NATO. Russia, naturally, is furious. According to European Pravda via the Russian news agency RBC Daily, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Aleksandr Venediktov stated, “Kyiv perfectly understands that such a step will mean a guaranteed escalation to the Third World War. The NATOs themselves understand the suicidal nature of this step.” 

The quick pace of Ukraine’s application process to NATO raises a great deal of questions for the future of Eastern Europe, how it might destabilize Russia, and whether Article 5 of the NATO Charter would be invoked once Ukraine joins NATO. Article 5 has loomed in the background of European politics ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Essentially, the Article provides for collective protection: if one member nation is attacked, the rest will provide defense and return the world order to peace. Article 5 being invoked could lead to war in Europe on the scale of the World Wars, which hasn’t been seen for three-quarters of a century.

However, there is currently no language allowing Article 5 to be invoked in support of a non-member country, and Ukraine’s admission to NATO will take several years, as they must obtain approval from multiple member countries, each with their own agendas. The likelihood, therefore, of Article 5 being invoked is low.

Regardless, in the event that Ukraine is admitted to NATO, both the United States and the region of Eastern Europe will benefit. Ukraine joining NATO will fundamentally change the balance of power in Eastern Europe for the better. The nation will represent another bulwark of democracy that, with additional monetary and military aid packages, can be brought into the modern age. The latest aid package consisted of 500 million Euros of support from the European Union, reports Ukrinform. The EU also has plans to train an additional 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, Euro News adds. These efforts, along with the equipment donated over the past eight months, have made Ukraine’s military more advanced and a more powerful fighting force. 

The goal is for Ukraine to use these tools, along with other technological and infrastructure advances, and emerge from this conflict as an intact, sovereign nation, ready to bring new ideas and technology to the world stage. A powerful Ukraine means a more democratic Ukraine, one that can advance reforms and serve as a model of democracy for Eastern Europe. If Ukraine is able to succeed, it could become Russia’s greatest fear: a strong, democratic country on its doorstep.

Still, it will likely take years for the NATO process to go through with Ukraine as countries try to navigate the politics of welcoming a nation at war into the military alliance. But it is important to remember that for a truly democratic Eastern Europe, and for the hope of a democratic Russia in our lifetime, the accession of Ukraine to NATO will provide a powerful stepping stone for that goal.

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