Why NATO Needs Ukraine

Kyiv’s Survival and Europe’s Security Depend on a More Unified Front

Two years later, both the shock prompted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression and the awe at Ukraine’s fighting spirit seem to have worn off. 

The July 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius exemplified the shift in mood. The gathering rightfully celebrated Finland’s historic accession, but it also exposed deep rifts between NATO allies on whether to admit Ukraine. 

Despite a concerted effort by the Baltic states and Poland to push the alliance to offer Ukraine membership, the summit failed to yield such an invitation, instead settling on an ambiguously worded communiqué declaring that NATO could invite Ukraine to join “when Allies agree and conditions are met.”

Whether Ukraine’s Western allies like it or not, the world, including China, would see Ukraine’s subjugation by Moscow as a defeat for NATO, with profound global consequences for U.S. global leadership and for international security. 

From February 2022 through the summer of 2023, Ukraine’s battlefield triumphs—built on the extraordinary military and financial assistance from the United States and its NATO allies—created a sense that momentum was on Ukraine’s side.

This summer, NATO must move to make things right, asserting that the only possible path to durable peace in Europe starts with putting Ukraine on a clear path toward membership."  

Alina Polyakova and James Goldgeier Foreign Affairs 1 February 2024


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