Four scenarios for Ukraine's future in NATO

Flags of Ukraine and NATO
Flags of Ukraine and NATO

Former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen proposes Ukraine's accession without the territories occupied by Russia. Is this proposal good or not? Let's analyze four scenarios.

Rasmussen, who served as NATO Secretary General from 2009 to 2014, insisted that Ukraine's partial membership plan would not symbolize a freeze on the conflict, but instead would mean a determination to warn Russia that it cannot prevent Ukraine from joining the Western defense alliance.

Well, let's start with the fact that the proposal is not official and not from an official. However, it is not accidental, and one purpose is to test the reaction of the alliance members, Russia, and, of course, the Ukrainian people.

Whether this is a good proposal or not should be judged based on its consequences. But let's first assess the prospects for continuing the liberation campaign in the format where we are:

- We are not in NATO.

- On the frontline, there is almost parity, which cannot be changed without additional resources.

- Ukraine critically depends on Western financial assistance (US, EU, IMF). The budget deficit for 2024 is over 40%.

- Ukraine is critically dependent on Western military aid.

- Ukraine is exclusively in a tactical framework (it has no strategy or plan for the future).

- The development of events in Ukraine in the current way depends almost entirely on the West.

The worst-case scenario could develop if there is no military and financial assistance tomorrow.

Can a country with territorial disputes become a NATO member?

The NATO Charter does not explicitly prohibit a country with a territorial dispute from joining the alliance. However, Article 10 of the Charter states that any country wishing to become a member of NATO must be able to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area and be prepared to assume the obligations of the Charter. In NATO's history, there have been cases when countries with territorial disputes joined the alliance.

The future of Donbas and Crimea is the future of East Germany

For example, Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952, despite a territorial dispute with Greece over Cyprus. In 2023, Finland joined NATO, which has a territorial dispute with Russia over Karelia.

So, there are theoretical opportunities for Ukraine.

How long will it take for Ukraine to join NATO?

The procedure can take from several months to several years. For example, in 2023, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in May and were accepted into the alliance in July. The speed of a new country's accession process depends on several factors, including:

- The readiness of the candidate country to join NATO.

- The existence of territorial disputes in the candidate country.

- The attitude of other NATO members to the candidate country's accession.

A new country does not need the 100% agreement of all NATO members to join. According to Article 10 of the NATO Charter, only a 2/3 majority of all members is required.

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This means that 26 out of the 30 NATO members must vote in favor of a new country's accession to NATO.

This is where the fun begins. The countries will have to decide whether they are ready to go to war on Ukraine's side if its borders are violated. The weak points of the vote will be Hungary, Romania, Turkey, and possibly Germany and Montenegro.

Now, let's go through the scenarios and consequences

There can be many scenarios, but let's take four main ones that are at the intersection of two axes:

1. "Ukraine is in NATO" – "Ukraine is not in NATO".

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2. "Ukraine is a subject" – "Ukraine is not a subject."

By subject, we mean Ukraine's ability to determine its own policy (to have a strategy and partnership with a global player, the United States).

Scenario 1: "Victim"

"Ukraine is not in NATO" and "Ukraine is not a subject". The probability is over 50%. In fact, this is the scenario we have today. We are critically dependent on military and financial assistance. Ukraine's future depends solely on the interests of the United States to maintain global hegemony and the interests of Europe to keep the Russian barbarians away from it.

In this scenario, Ukraine's resources are maximally depleted. Both financial and human. With all the heroism of Ukrainians, we will not be able to liberate our lands on our own. The fatigue of our donors, our military, and civilians from the war complicates this scenario. The outcome of this scenario does not depend on us.

Scenario 2: The Player

This scenario is at the intersection of "Ukraine is a subject" and "Ukraine is not in NATO." The probability is up to 10%. Ukraine can be a subject and a "player" only within the framework of the US global interests, as one of the critical figures on the global chessboard. But to do so, Ukraine needs to learn to articulate its strategic goals clearly and become a predictable, contractually capable partner of the United States (which Americans have significant doubts about today).

Scenario 3. "Watchtower"

"Ukraine is a NATO member," but "Ukraine is not a subject." The probability is 30%. Remember. Countries that do not have a strategy for the future are a resource for countries that do!

The collective West is interested in having us:

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- A controlled buffer zone with Russia.

- To have a break to prepare for a big war (to replenish the stock of weapons and ammunition).

- Preserve the lives of its soldiers by outsourcing the fighting.

In this scenario, the West expects Russia to stop trying to continue its terrorist activities. The occupied territories will not be recognized, but will "hang" indefinitely. Ukraine will be kept afloat by "keeping its pants on," but there will be no talk of investments.

Ukraine's task in this scenario is to be a "guardian of Europe" – a "physically developed guy who performs his functions for a minimal fee." The main advantage for Ukraine in this scenario would be:

- Respite to accumulate forces and resources.

- An end to the deaths.

- Protection of the sky and resumption of air traffic with the world.

- Gradual economic recovery within the controlled territories.

Scenario 4. "Center for European Security"

Intersection of "Ukraine is in NATO" and "Ukraine is a subject". The probability is 20%. It is the most desirable scenario:

-    Makes Ukraine a vital partner of both the EU and the US in the region (essentially, the role of South Korea in Southeast Asia).

- It gives Ukraine a respite and a considerable inflow of resources to restore the economy and build a robust defense industry ecosystem based on the Israeli model.

- It provides Ukraine with not only recovery aid, but also significant investments (the subjective position determines that we clearly understand our priorities, create incentives for their implementation, and, as a result, become very interesting for investors).

As a result, we receive NATO protection, an influx of investments and technologies, and rapid economic growth. Time in this scenario is working in our favor, as adverse developments in the economies of China and Russia will become increasingly pronounced, creating opportunities for us. In this scenario, the future of Donbas and Crimea is the future of East Germany, which has finally reunited with West Germany.

What are the conclusions?

We all need to adequately assess the forces and resources that each scenario provides to achieve our long-term goals:

- Security guarantees.

- Restoration of the country's territorial integrity.

- A strong economy that provides a high quality of life.

And act on this logic.

For this reason, I would bet on the fourth scenario, the probability of which today is much less than 20%.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine