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Friend in deed: Ukraine’s NATO bid needs German support

This should involve “mutually reinforcing measures” coordinated among the EU, NATO, the G7 and more than 50 nations involved in helping Ukraine.

Friend in deed: Ukraine’s NATO bid needs German support
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By Frank Hofmann

WASHINGTON: Kyiv has been asking Germany to help pave the way for Ukraine to join NATO. A German think tank has mapped out a plan for Ukraine’s accession to the alliance. Germany’s political weight in the NATO military alliance has increased significantly in the past 16 months since Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a “Zeitenwende” (“turning of the times”) in a now-famous speech to parliament last February. What followed was a marked increase in German defense spending, and now other NATO members are turning to Germany as they try to position themselves on Ukraine’s bid to join the military alliance.

A Berlin-based think tank, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), recently published an analysis entitled “Lasting Security for Ukraine” ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, which maps out concrete steps that should eventually lead to Ukraine’s NATO membership. The researchers suggest supporting Kyiv with a “pact for security, reconstruction and peace.” This should involve “mutually reinforcing measures” coordinated among the EU, NATO, the G7 and more than 50 nations involved in helping Ukraine.

Ukraine expects much

The US conducts many of its arms deliveries to Ukraine from its air base in Ramstein, Germany. “Germany has a central role in this, in terms of both financial resources and military equipment, and above all political clout,” the report’s co-author Margarete Klein told DW.

“Our point is that Ukraine’s security must be guaranteed for the long term,” said Klein, who heads the SWP’s Eastern Europe and Eurasia research group. “And to do that, we see only three options: Either Russia is disarmed, which is unrealistic, or Ukraine gets nuclear weapons again, which nobody can want — or Ukraine becomes a member of NATO.” Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, has again called for a clear signal: “Ukraine expects to receive an invitation for a simplified accession to the alliance at the summit in Vilnius,” he told international journalists at a press briefing at the end of June, to which he had explicitly invited German journalists.

Berlin’s long-term commitment

It’s clear that Ukrainians have high expectations of Germany. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been traveling around Europe seeking support for his country’s accession to NATO, most recently in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, and has already secured approval from the governments of the Baltic states and Poland. Russia needs to learn that “Western support is permanent” and will not weaken, the SWP researchers wrote in their plan. “What would be necessary is a steady and long-term financing of arms deliveries,” said Klein, before adding that it is necessary to build up Ukraine’s defense industry so that the country becomes fully integrated into the Western military structure.

Germany would play a central role here, she argued, turning it into the “central defense and armaments nation in Europe in the next few years.” Shortly before the NATO summit, Germany passed the federal budget for 2024 in which the defense ministry is the only department that will not face cuts. Welcoming the move, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stressed that “2% of the gross domestic product will be spent on NATO defense expenditures” in the coming year.

DW Bureau
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