Olha Stefanishyna is the most responsible official in the Ukrainian government for the EU and NATO. She says that Ukraine is still trying to convince the US President that it is time to invite Ukraine to NATO. He is not ready yet for such an important decision.
However, the Alliance is ready for other positive decisions for Ukraine, as the Deputy Prime Minister shared in an interview with "European Pravda."
"There is no feeling that Hungary will become a 'black swan' at the NATO summit"
– Will the President of Ukraine be at the NATO summit?
– A final decision has not been made yet. We do not fully understand the format of meetings in Vilnius and the content of decisions. When we negotiate with the EU, we are a full-fledged participant in the negotiations. However, NATO is a closed organisation where all decisions are discussed only among the members of the Alliance.
We currently do not know what will be in the final documents of the summit.
We are trying to make the summit successful. That's why the President went to Türkiye to influence the decisions regarding Sweden. We are thinking not only about ourselves but also about our friends.
– What can determine the success of the NATO summit?
– The summit entails a complex set of decisions. Firstly, negotiations are ongoing with Türkiye regarding Sweden's accession to the Alliance.
Secondly, it was expected that the summit would approve a new NATO Secretary General, but Jens Stoltenberg has agreed to extend his work for another year. His words that Ukraine will be a priority for him are important. We thank him for his work and dedication. Although certain public signals have disappointed us Ukrainians, we know that he is doing a lot.
The summit will surely address the issue of inviting Ukraine to membership and security guarantees for Ukraine. Negotiations on both "Ukrainian" matters are ongoing.
We should understand that Ukraine's NATO membership is being pursued not only in the interests of Kyiv but also in the interests of security for the Eastern flank.
Certainly, as a NATO member, Hungary retains the right to voice its opposition at any stage, but I do not have the feeling that it could become a "black swan" that would block the processes.
– So, Sweden will not become a NATO member at the summit, it is technically impossible. There is no new Secretary General. Only Ukraine defines the summit. What decision regarding Ukraine would be considered a success?
– A political invitation.
It is possible and necessary right now in Vilnius.
There are no restrictions in the Alliance rules that prevent this.
We want all NATO leaders, 31 countries, to confirm that Ukraine is invited to the Alliance and to confirm that the newly formed Ukraine-NATO Council should determine the path to membership.
Membership is a process that must be completed when certain security conditions are met. What exactly – whether it is about the end of the war or about something else – needs to be determined; here, the Alliance has an individual approach. But we can start this process, that is, invite Ukraine to become a member, right now.
This symbolic decision will help Ukraine on the front line.
The beginning of a counteroffensive is taking place right now. It is important for us that in this most difficult period, Ukrainians and the soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine hear a powerful signal from our allies.
It is also important that Russia is constrained after Prigozhin's mutiny. The Kremlin understands that this can provoke new pockets of destabilisation.
For NATO, it is the best time to act.
"Fear of Russia within the Alliance has transformed"
– Who supports the idea of inviting Ukraine to join?
– This is the position of the entire "Bucharest Nine" or the Eastern flank of NATO. The Bucharest Nine summit on June 6 decided that the security of B9 members depends on whether Ukraine joins the Alliance.
This decision was also supported by Hungary, and President Katalin Novák signed it.
Among Western leaders, Emmanuel Macron supports Ukraine's NATO membership.
Italy and the Nordic countries have a clearly positive position as well.
– So, it remains to convince US President Joe Biden.
– It is no secret that the role of the United States has always been crucial.
The role of the United States was crucial in 2008 at the Bucharest summit when the United States was in favour of Ukraine joining NATO while Europe was against it. Now the situation is diametrically different. It is not the United States, but Europe demanding Ukraine to be in NATO.
However, the Alliance must understand the obvious: even after the war, security and stability in Europe are only possible with Ukraine as a NATO member.
Imagine Ukraine after the war. 1.5 million or more participants in combat. A lot of weapons. The country will be emotionally exhausted from the war. That is why we must be part of NATO. We must be integrated into the defence resource management system to sustain the country after the war.
– I have a feeling that those who do not want to invite Ukraine are actually afraid of Russia.
– This fear is here, but it has transformed.
Previously there was simply a crazy fear of saying anything about Ukraine without knowing the reaction of the Russian side.
Today, the most disappointing position is when they say, "We do not know how the war will end. Sooner or later, it may be necessary to sit down at the table and talk. Then Ukraine's refusal of NATO membership may be part of the negotiating position."
"We will join NATO regardless of the decisions at the Vilnius summit"
– How will Ukraine act if it hears a "no" in Vilnius?
– We will definitely not hear a "no" in Vilnius.
Currently, the discussion is about how the positive decision regarding Ukraine will be formulated.
We will not hear "no," "never," or "until the war ends" – such messages will definitely not be there.
Therefore, it is important for us to start some work on the day after Vilnius, including preparations for the next NATO summit in Washington.
But I very much hope that we will receive an invitation for Ukraine. After that, we should start working on defining the details and specifics of this process.
– If there is no invitation in Vilnius, will it affect our desire to join NATO?
– We will be in NATO. Regardless of the decisions at the Vilnius summit.
However, if they do not make a decision to invite Ukraine now, we will need to revise the strategy. This decision sets in motion a large number of processes related to strategic planning, defence assistance, defence planning, the transformation of our security and defence sector, and the choice of priorities in working with allies.
The presence or absence of an invitation also determines the content of security guarantees. Without Ukraine's NATO membership, bilateral security guarantees become the main ones.
We will still move towards NATO, but the course of this process will change because without a clear prospect of membership in the Alliance, the motivation (of political players in Ukraine – EP) will be different. If this ultimate goal is not there, then any decision regarding internal transformations will be questioned. Is it necessary now, in times of war?
Although our strong conviction – mine and our entire political team – is that NATO membership is the cheapest security guarantee for Ukraine.
Discussions that bring forth absolutely foolish arguments and denials about Russia are particularly annoying.
Interviewed by Sergiy Sydorenko,
European Pravda, Editor