Nato summit: Ukraine's accession still up in the air

The leaders gathered at the Nato summit which began on Tuesday in Vilnius have presented their stance on Ukraine joining the alliance. In answer to a speech by President Volodymyr Zelensky making the case for Ukraine's speedy admission, the alliance held out the prospect of accession only if certain conditions are met, such as the war having ended and further democratisation. Commentators weigh up the significance of the decision.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Warm but empty words

Zelensky will be fobbed off with vague promises at the summit, Radio Kommersant FM predicts:

“The dream of Ukraine and its strongest European supporters like Poland and the Baltic states will not be fulfilled in Vilnius, there will be no miracle. In this respect the summit will not be historic. On the other hand, the interest it has generated is so great, the expectations so high and the media hype so skilfully maximised that it is nevertheless imperative to create the appearance of significant decisions. At least verbally if it's not possible to enshrine them in binding documents. ... There will be a lot of pathos, solidarity speeches and expressions of admiration. The only thing there won't be is the key thing: valuable membership.”

France Inter (FR) /

A remarkable success for Zelensky

A fundamental change has taken place, columnist Pierre Haski comments on the website of France Inter:

“When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, there was no shortage of voices in the West prepared to accept the neutralisation of Ukraine to appease Russia. Today, this is out of the question. The war has shattered such attitudes. ... Even France, which only a few months ago was taking care not to 'humiliate Russia' - as Emmanuel Macron controversially put it - has made a 180-degree turn and now backs Ukraine's aspirations almost unconditionally. ... All of this reinforces Zelensky's belief that the Nato countries will side with him in the long term. That is no small victory.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Prospect of Israeli model is smoke and mirrors

Izvestia sees the security guarantees being offered to Ukraine more as a hindrance on the country's road to Nato:

“The full integration of Ukraine into Nato is neither possible nor necessary for the North Atlantic Alliance, as it entails new risks, threats, obligations and costs. Many politicians and experts in Ukraine have interpreted Joe Biden's message that the US can give Ukraine the same kind of security guarantees as Israel as a lifeline. France and Germany support Washington in this. But here evil irony breaks through: are there any discussions about Israel joining Nato right now? And if this is not being discussed - why not?”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

An unused opportunity

Tomas Jermalavičius of the Estonian foreign policy think tank ICDS calls for Ukraine to be admitted to Nato immediately:

“Any compromise is only half a solution which has its downsides and risks. If Ukraine is only granted membership after the war is over, Russia will prolong the war forever rather than conceding defeat. Most dangerously, today's promises could all too easily end in tomorrow's political amnesia. Offering Ukraine Nato membership would send a clear signal. A weaker signal than this would be not only a moral failure but also a strategic one. Unfortunately, Vilnius is unlikely to seize the opportunity to be bold and strategically far-sighted.”

Delfi (LT) /

Deliberate vagueness

The West is afraid of direct military confrontation with Russia, criticises Delfi:

“This aspect is at the heart of the whole debate on whether Ukraine should be offered the prospect of Nato membership. Whether this happens 'after the war', during the war or at a completely different time does not change things. Only such a clear commitment would demonstrate the alliance's determination in principle to go to war with Russia. So Nato says nothing explicit because it does not want to, because it is afraid of such a decision, because it naively hopes to be able to 'mitigate' the situation.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Democratisation as a prerequisite

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says Biden's course is reasonable:

“He is right in pointing out that letting Ukraine join during the war would mean that Nato would have to fight Russia. No one can seriously want that. More surprising is his clarity in naming other preconditions for accession, such as the democratisation of Ukraine. ... The decision about Ukraine's accession is so far-reaching that it should not be taken without knowing exactly what the political-military map of Europe will look like once the war is over or even in the event of a ceasefire. This concerns the state of Russia as much as that of Ukraine.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The US is too hesitant

Garry Kasparov, chess legend and opponent of Russian President Putin, writes in a guest commentary in La Stampa:

“I will speak this week in Vilnius, Lithuania, on behalf of the antiwar Russian Action Committee. President Biden will attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit there, along with dozens of other heads of state. My first message: Ukraine is the one nation worthy of NATO membership, because it is fighting the war the alliance was built for in 1949. My second message: While America delays, Ukrainians die. The US is bringing up the rear in the alliance. The Europeans who once hesitated are now more determined than the Biden administration, which raises objections to every arms delivery to Kyiv.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Assume historical responsibility

Ukraine deserves a clear signal, explains Le Figaro:

“The time has come to make a long-term commitment by sending a message of solidarity to Kyiv and a message of resistance to Moscow's imperialism. ... Nato has already made its bet vis-à-vis Russia: the best way to lose it would be not to follow through on its logic. ... Ukraine has earned its entry ticket, Putin himself created this situation which he wanted to avoid at all costs. Now that we have reached this point, we should assume the historical responsibility of acknowledging it without hiding behind ambiguities.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Squaring the circle

Lidové noviny speculates about the summit's final result on paper:

“Will it be the date of Ukraine's accession to the Alliance? A firm promise that accession will take place after the war? A vague promise? Or not even that? ... The Nato summit must solve the problem of squaring the circle: how to give Ukraine at least some security guarantees while at the same time preventing the West from getting involved in a direct war with Russia? This is no trivial feat.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Expect setback for Ukraine

Ukraine won't receive an invitation to join Nato, security policy expert Karl-Heinz Kamp predicts in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Washington and many others point to the enormous costs that would be incurred if Nato wanted to defend Ukraine - the second-largest state in Europe after Russia - on its eastern border. So far Nato hasn't even managed to permanently station enough forces on its existing borders in the east. The consensus in the alliance is that no invitation will be extended to Ukraine to join Nato in Vilnius.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

America still Europe's life insurance

The US remains indispensable for European security, Handelsblatt notes:

“Left to their own devices, the Europeans, with their bonsai armies, would have little to counter the land-grabbing ambitions of Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin. Finland's and Sweden's decision to seek Nato's protection demonstrates how sceptical Europeans are about their ability to defend themselves. The EU's promise of assistance, written down in Article 47, paragraph 7 of the EU Treaty, does not inspire confidence in Helsinki or Stockholm. In an emergency only one thing counts: the US's security guarantee . ... Nato is Europe's life insurance - and America is Nato's life insurance.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Set limits to Beijing's hunger for power

China must also be on the agenda at the summit, La Repubblica insists:

“The establishment of a geopolitical and security policy doctrine to effectively counter the growing self-confidence of the People's Republic of China can no longer be postponed. The military threats against democratic China in Taiwan, the never-denied 'alliance without borders' signed by Xi and Putin shortly before the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the illegal occupation of large swathes of the South China Sea; ... the growing cooperation between China, Russia and Iran in the energy, technological and military sectors - these are the elements that characterise the new global challenge posed by Beijing.”

Kauno diena (LT) /

A clear decision is needed

The decision will say a lot about the state of Nato, writes Kauno diena:

“When it comes to membership, the focus is often solely on the military component, disregarding requirements - such as the level of democracy and respect for the rule of law. ... The Nato members' decision on Ukraine will show whether international law, which the Russian leadership has trampled on, is still so important to them. ... A vague decision by the alliance that is open to interpretation, especially if it is announced in Vilnius, would be a gift to the Kremlin mob. Not least because of the idea that even in the post-Soviet space the stench of the long-defunct Warsaw Pact paralyses the will of the Western alliance.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Prague should do what it can

Ukrainian President Zelensky also travelled to Prague as part of his European tour to promote his country's Nato plans. Lidové noviny advises:

“Membership in the North Atlantic Alliance has been promised to Kyiv since 2008. But the country will not be admitted before the end of the current war, and who knows when afterwards. It's not that the alliance doesn't have any members who are caught up in territorial disputes or fighting wars. But a conflict with a nuclear power is a whole different kettle of fish. Getting involved would be unwise. And after the war? If Russia remains aggressive and strong, that will be a problem. On the other hand, Kyiv must at least receive individual security guarantees from the Nato countries. The Czech Republic should support this.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Sweden also benefits as a de facto member

Sweden should remain relaxed in the face of the ongoing Turkish blockade, Dagens Nyheter believes:

“Turkey's demands for extraditions and bans on Koran burnings cannot be met. Nor is that what the other Nato states expect of us. No one wants a situation in which Erdoğan blackmails potential members or the organisation as a whole. ... If everything is not yet settled next week, the government should focus its energy on facilitating the deepest possible military integration into the alliance - and on ensuring that we are treated as a de facto member until we receive formal membership. This will benefit both us and Nato.”

Politiken (DK) /

Send a strong message to Putin

Politiken also calls on Nato to ignore Erdoğan, but wants to see the neighbouring state in Nato at any cost:

“Strengthening the front against Russia is precisely what Nato's heads of state and government are focused on. So of course they can neither give in to a diffuse Middle East rage [over Koran burnings] nor to Erdoğan's concrete demands. If they did, the Nato states would have accepted the tyrant's veto and the blackmailer's methods, and it was precisely to combat such things that the defence alliance was formed. ... The strongest response to Putin at the moment will therefore be to renew this unity. And it could hardly be more symbolically beautiful if that happens on former Soviet territory in Vilnius, from which the Lithuanians liberated themselves in 1990.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Accession the only viable security guarantee

Eesti Päevaleht is cautiously optimistic:

“Ukraine's application for membership is clearly the most difficult issue. The goal is a concrete accession agenda, or in other words an answer to the question of how and under what conditions Ukraine can become a member of the Alliance. ... Ukraine will not be left empty-handed. Together, the member states are taking a number of practical steps to help Ukraine and also to strengthen its security. Estonia's representatives at the summit, in particular Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, have been repeating for months that the only viable security guarantee is Nato.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Careful with the conditions

Ukrainska Pravda calls in a joint editorial for swift Nato accession for Ukraine:

“The White House began repeating last year that it would help Ukraine 'as long as it takes'. ... However, it turned out that the word 'long' in this phrase also stands for 'slow'. ... It would be a huge mistake to think that Ukraine's invitation to NATO can be postponed to the future as safely as the US delayed arms supplies. ... By stipulating certain security conditions for Ukraine's invitation, the Alliance will signal to Russia that it must maintain a threat level higher than those conditions.”

The Times (GB) /

Time to get a move on

Certain time factors could put Nato under extra pressure to invite Ukraine to join the alliance, The Times hopes:

“Nato has a maximum of one year to do so. Not only because it plans to celebrate its 75th birthday with due pomp in 2024, but also because next year's summit in Washington could be Joe Biden's last hurrah before Donald Trump possibly returns to the White House. Should that happen, Ukraine will no longer be able to rely on the currently still large Western military aid. ... So the Vilnius summit must go beyond mere self-congratulation and gather steam on accelerating Ukraine's accession to Nato.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Not as united as they would like to be

Der Tagesspiegel is not expecting the summit to be very harmonious:

“Turkey has been blocking Sweden's accession for months under pretexts that have nothing to do with Nato. ... The alliance is also at odds over what it wants to offer Ukraine. It agrees that the country needs security guarantees. But it does not agree that it should receive an invitation to join. ... Whatever is ultimately decided as the lowest common denominator: the powerful signal of unity sent by the prompt agreement [to extend the mandate of Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by another year] will probably be followed by the impression that Nato is not quite as united as it would like to be in view of the war in Europe.”

Verslo žinios (LT) /

Ukraine would be a real asset

Verslo žinios appeals to the those who are sceptical about Ukraine joining the alliance:

“Some Western countries are reluctant to accept its membership after the war, apparently without having properly assessed the threat posed by Putin and Russia. ... Ukraine is not waiting for fine speeches, nor for vague promises, nor for if-then considerations that lead nowhere, but for substantive decisions. With a realistic timetable for accession, Nato would demonstrate true unity and strength. ... And the alliance would gain a brave, battle-hardened army equipped with modern Western technology. Nato's 33rd member would become a reliable pillar against the predatory ambitions of its eastern neighbour.”