NATO leaders issued a communiqué on Tuesday at the end of the first day of the alliance’s summit in Vilnius that dealt with the issue of Ukraine’s future membership.
The communiqué said NATO would waive the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine, which requires reforms to meet certain requirements. Waiving the MAP would speed up Ukraine’s membership if it’s ever invited to join the alliance, but Kyiv was not given any new commitments on when that might happen.
The communiqué reads: “The Alliance will support Ukraine in making these reforms on 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.”
As the communiqué was being drafted, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the vague language.
“I would like to emphasize that this wording is about the invitation to become NATO member, not about Ukraine’s membership,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter. “It’s unprecedented and absurd when time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership. While at the same time vague wording about ‘conditions’ is added even for inviting Ukraine.”
Ukraine was first promised it would eventually become a NATO member at a 2008 summit in Bucharest despite the issue being a major redline for Russia. But Kyiv has never been given a timeline on membership.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted the commitments made to Ukraine on Tuesday were a “strong package.” The alliance agreed to form a new NATO-Ukraine Council to “advance political dialogue, engagement, cooperation, and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.”
According to a NATO press release, allies also agreed to “a new multi-year assistance program to facilitate the transition of the Ukrainian armed forces from Soviet-era to NATO standards and help rebuild Ukraine’s security and defense sector, covering critical needs like fuel, demining equipment, and medical supplies.”
But to Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials who were demanding a clear timeline on when they could join NATO, these commitments came up short. Zelensky previously threatened to boycott the summit if he didn’t get the promises he wanted but ended up attending anyway.
Zelensky said Ukraine expects to receive more commitments related to military aid during the second day of the summit on Wednesday. “Our defense is a top priority, and I am grateful to our partners for their willingness to take new steps. More weapons for our warriors, more protection of life for the whole of Ukraine! We will bring new important defense tools to Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter.