29th November 2023 – (Brussels) NATO is reportedly in the process of finalising membership recommendations for Ukraine during the ongoing foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. Analysts view this move as an attempt to entice Ukraine closer to the West, particularly as support from the European Union (EU) and the United States has waned. It is also seen as a means to promote solidarity within the EU at a time when global attention is focused on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs convened in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss various matters, including support for Ukraine. Ahead of the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that member countries would agree on recommendations for reforms that Ukraine must undertake to qualify for alliance membership. Reports suggest that these recommendations would be discussed during a NATO-Ukraine meeting.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien emphasised that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is attending the NATO meeting, would underscore the alliance’s unwavering support for Ukraine. In recent weeks, the Biden administration has been preoccupied with the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel.
While the European Commission has recommended the initiation of EU membership negotiations with Ukraine, NATO also aims to send a strong signal through this foreign ministers’ meeting. By finalizing the recommendations for Ukraine’s priority reforms, the alliance seeks to express its commitment to Ukraine’s aspirations. Cui Hongjian, a professor at the Academy of Regional and Global Governance at Beijing Foreign Studies University, noted that both the EU and NATO are concerned that a loss of faith in the West and the EU could lead to a resurgence of pro-Russia forces in Ukraine.
Although the European Commission’s recommendation for Ukraine’s EU accession has been hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a significant step, European media outlets have highlighted the challenges that Ukraine still faces in its path towards EU membership. These challenges include the need for further domestic reforms and uncertainties about the EU’s own future.
The EU and NATO are keen to demonstrate their support for Ukraine, particularly as concrete aid from the U.S. and EU has diminished. They also seek to prevent a rift between Ukraine and the West that could potentially allow pro-Russia forces to regain influence. Additionally, expressing “unwavering support” for Ukraine allows NATO and the EU to maintain a united front in their approach to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
As the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains unresolved and the U.S. faces difficulties in providing unequivocal backing to Ukraine, doubts and criticism regarding the EU’s stance have emerged within the bloc. Furthermore, divisions between the U.S. and the EU have become more pronounced.
In early October, EU diplomat Josep Borrell called on U.S. lawmakers to reconsider their decision to exclude financial support for Ukraine from a stopgap budget bill passed by the U.S. Congress to avert a government shutdown.
With the Russia-Ukraine conflict continuing for over 600 days, Zelensky has reportedly struggled with waning support from the West. He has acknowledged that the conflict between Palestine and Israel has diverted attention and resources away from the situation in Ukraine.