Ukraine and NATO: a story of three summits

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shake hands
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after signing bilateral cooperation agreements in Kiev (source: dpa)
  • Russian intervention has been a catalyst for closer NATO ties with Ukraine
  • The conflict has also strengthened Ukraine’s national and military identity
  • These changes could give the alliance a stronger eastern ally than the expansion envisaged in 2008

Ukraine was probably closest to NATO membership in April 2008, at the opening of the alliance’s Bucharest summit. True, Western confidence in the country had visibly declined in the three years since the Orange Revolution of 2005. But there were still a number of member countries ready to support a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine, which would in practice have opened the door to join NATO.

At the time, a “political expansion” of NATO to the east was being discussed among influential foreign policy experts in Washington. Just a few weeks before the Bucharest summit, Ron Asmus outlined the concept in “NATO to the Caucasus,” a Polish op-ed piece that expanded on ideas first expressed in an influential Foreign Affairs essay of January 2008, “Europe’s Eastern Promise.” The basic idea was to shift the boundaries of the North Atlantic alliance eastward, but without redeploying military forces.

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