During the NATO summit held on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed his country's potential membership in the alliance. However, both Zelensky and President Joe Biden acknowledged that Ukraine's membership may be delayed due to a provision in NATO's founding North Atlantic Treaty. This provision, known as Article 5, states that an attack against one member state should be considered an attack against all of them, requiring member states to defend each other. If Ukraine were to join NATO, it would mean that the conflict with Russia would expand to involve 31 countries across Europe and North America.
President Biden emphasized that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership while the war with Russia is ongoing, stating that if the war continues, "then we're all in war." President Zelensky acknowledged that Ukraine cannot become a NATO member during a war but expressed optimism that his country's membership will eventually happen.
Biden also highlighted that there is no unanimity within NATO regarding Ukraine's immediate integration into the alliance while the conflict persists. He reiterated that NATO would commit to defending its territory. It is worth noting that NATO has only invoked Article 5 once before, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
This situation is reminiscent of Georgia's experience in applying for NATO membership. Georgia submitted its application in 2008, but months later, it engaged in a conflict with Russia. While NATO indicated that both Georgia and Ukraine would become members, Georgia's application is still pending. Georgia has faced setbacks in areas such as the rule of law, governance, and human rights, which may have influenced its delayed membership.
Ukraine officially applied to join NATO last year, seven months after Russia's invasion. Discussions about Ukraine's membership have intensified as the conflict continues. NATO officials have been working on a document that would include a pledge to invite Ukraine once certain conditions are met, although the specific conditions are unknown. Ukraine has also applied for EU membership, but it is required to enact structural reforms and address corruption before being admitted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Ukraine's ambition to join NATO is one of the reasons behind Russia's invasion. However, the exact motives behind the conflict remain complex and multifaceted.