This week’s NATO summit conference wrought significant advantages for Ukraine in its fight for independence, and on behalf of Europe’s security. Ukraine and most NATO members sought an unconditional invitation for Ukraine to join the NATO alliance following its war with Russia. They achieved part of that goal — a shorter, clearer path to Ukraine’s membership, USIP analysts note. Turkey’s reversal, to support Sweden’s accession to the alliance, strengthens the community backing the Ukrainians’ self-defense. While the summit had no prospect of lightening the burdens of defending Ukraine, Europe and the international rule of law, it accomplished what was achievable in the moment.
The NATO summit cleared major hurdles for Sweden to join the alliance and offered a consensus for Ukraine’s eventual accession. With Moscow still dealing with the fallout from Prigozhin’s recent uprising, signs indicate that “Putin is now weaker than anybody in the West thought he’d be two months ago,” says USIP’s Donald Jensen.
Nearly nine months after Sweden and Finland applied to join the NATO alliance, Turkey continues to block their accessions. Turkey’s obstruction persists even though the applicants have now met many of its demands, and in spite of sustained high-level engagement from the United States and NATO’s secretary general. Turkish presidential elections, scheduled for May, make a breakthrough unlikely anytime soon. But Sweden’s response to the recent Turkish earthquakes could provide an unexpected opportunity for renewed progress. It is in the U.S. interest, and that of Europe’s future peace and stability, to keep up the effort. The window between now and NATO’s July summit in Vilnius will be crucial for patient diplomacy, backed by pressure, to break the deadlock.