Last week, the Ukrainian president said he had “cooled down” on the idea of Kiev’s membership in the Western bloc “a long time ago,” saying he didn’t want to be the leader of a country “that is begging for something on its knees.” As recently as January, NATO indicated that Ukrainian and Georgian membership in the bloc was just a matter of time.
Kiev has heard loud and clear that it will not be joining NATO, and this is a reality which Ukrainians must come to terms with, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.
NATO opened the door to Ukraine and Georgia’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership” in 2008 at the alliance’s Bucharest summit. Moscow has spent years expressing concerns about the implications that Ukrainian NATO membership would have for Russian and regional security, calling Ukraine’s NATO bid a ‘red line’ which it would not allow to be crossed following several waves of eastward expansion by the bloc.
The Western alliance began its push east after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact bloc. In 1990 and again in 1991, US and NATO officials promised Moscow repeatedly that the alliance would not expand “one inch east” beyond the borders of a reunified Germany. US President Bill Clinton broke this commitment in 1994, saying NATO’s expansion would be a question of when, not if. In the decades since, every single former member of the Warsaw Pact, as well as three post-Soviet republics and four republics of the former Yugoslavia were swallowed up by the aliance.