The 31-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, has reaffirmed Ukraine’s inherent right to self-defence as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
The declaration which comes as Ukraine continues it counteroffensive to recapture territories seized by invading Russian forces also commits the allies to sustained support until existing territorial integrity of all countries involved in the conflict are restored.
In the official statement released by NATO in Vilnius, the military alliance which is also bonded by economic and trade cooperation declared “unwavering solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the heroic defence of their nation, their land, and our shared values.”
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to further step up political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and will continue our support for as long as it takes. We welcome efforts of all Allies and partners engaged in providing support to Ukraine,” the group declared.
The declaration also reinforced earlier remarks by the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, that NATO’s support for Ukraine would be sustained as long as it would take to restore the country’s territorial integrity.
He told journalists before leaving London for the NATO meeting that it was unwise for Russia to continue waiting for NATO’s support fatigue in Ukraine, warning that the coalition of world’s most advanced militaries are eternal in its support to Ukraine.
At the meeting, NATO declared full support for “Ukraine’s right to choose its own security arrangements. Ukraine’s future is NATO. We reaffirm the commitment we made at the 2008 Summit in Bucharest that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, and today we recognize that Ukraine’s path to full Euro-Atlantic integration has moved beyond the need for the Membership Action Plan.
“Ukraine has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the Alliance, and has made substantial progress on its reform path. In line with the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine and the 2009 Complement, Allies will continue to support and review Ukraine’s progress on interoperability as well as additional democratic and security sector reforms that are required. NATO Foreign Ministers will regularly assess progress through the adapted Annual National Programme.
“The Alliance will support Ukraine in making these reforms in its path towards future membership. We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.
“The security of Ukraine is of great importance to Allies and the Alliance. To support Ukraine’s further integration with NATO, today we have agreed a substantial package of expanded political and [practical support. We have decided to establish the NATO-Ukraine Council, a new joint body where Allies and Ukraine sit as equal members to advance political dialogue, engagement, cooperation, and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.
“It will provide for joint consultations, decision-making, and activities, and will also serve a crisis consultation mechanism between NATO and Ukraine.
“The continued delivery of urgently needed non-lethal assistance to Ukraine by NATO through the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) remains a priority. Since the Madrid Summit, Allies and partners have committed over 500 million Euros to the CAP. To support Ukraine’s deterrence and defence in the short, medium, and long term, we have agreed today to further develop the CAP into a multi-year programme for Ukraine. The assistance provided will help rebuild the Ukrainian security and defence sector and transition Ukraine towards full interoperability with NATO. Allies will continue to fund the CAP in a sustained and predictable way. We highly welcome and encourage partner contributions,” NATO declared in Vilnius.
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had earlier hinted that Vladimir Putin should not be “waiting out the West”, adding that NATO was “in it for the long haul” with its support for Ukraine.
“What Putin needs to understand is there is no point in just waiting out the West, and not just the West but the alliance of people who have fought to support Ukraine,” he told reporters on his RAF Voyager flight.
“Everyone is in it for the long haul. He [Putin] thought this would be over quickly – that has already been proven to be false.
“What he thought would be done and dusted within a few days, we are now 500 days into this conflict and the Ukrainians are capturing territory.”
Asked about when Ukraine would be allowed to join NATO, Mr Sunak said: “We’ve always said Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. We stand by the language of Bucharest in 2008.”
In 2008 at a NATO summit in Bucharest, both Ukraine and Georgia were told they could accede to the alliance. However, no concrete steps to entry were set out.
Mr Sunak continued: “I think what’s important at this summit is that commitment is reaffirmed, but also that there is demonstrable progress towards that. And I think that is what you will see.
He added that alliance members would announce multilateral “security guarantees” for Ukraine that would stop short of formal membership but involve arms and other offers of military assistance.
“The purpose of these [security guarantees] are to demonstrate multilateral support for Ukraine, but also enduring long-term support for Ukraine, and I think that is critical,” said Mr Sunak.
“Because it’s the right thing to do, and also because it will send a strong deterrent message to the Russians. That’s why I have been very keen to try and get this over the line.”
Mr Sunak said discussions about security guarantees were “distinct from the NATO conversation” about Ukraine’s membership, but would deter Putin nonetheless.
“Those conversations are ongoing so we need to keep having them, but that’s the purpose of them,” he said.
“It’s to demonstrate that long-term commitment from a broad group of countries. It is distinct from the NATO conversation, and I think it will send a very strong signal of deterrent to Putin.”