There appears to be movement on a plan to quickly integrate Ukraine into NATO. An important obstacle has been lifted since the US, the most important NATO member, supports it. If Washington is up to it, Ukraine could get the perspective of an urgent procedure to become a NATO member at the NATO summit in Vilnius next month, according to anonymous officials, The Washington Post reported.
NATO ministers met in Brussels on Friday to discuss NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s proposal to allow Ukraine to enter without knocking. The country should be allowed to bypass the usual portal for membership (in the language: Membership Action Plan). Macedonia had to sweat and reform in that conventional anteroom for 20 years before being admitted in 2020.
All 31 members must agree. Apart from the US, Germany also looks positive. Ukraine also needs to implement reforms, but could join as soon as (almost) Finland does in April, according to the plan. By then the war with Russia was over.
Ukraine and some Eastern European countries see the plan as a consolation prize. Because if it suits them, NATO should guarantee that Ukraine will be allowed to join anyway within a certain time frame. But most NATO member states do not want to do that, fearing that NATO will immediately become a party to the war in Ukraine.
Focal points on the front
Far from the diplomatic front, the war remains a stalemate, although fierce and bloody fighting is now taking place in various locations. One of the focal points is still Bagmod. But most of the attention is focused on those in the south and west near the towns of Velika Novosilka and Orichiv.
The war there is really about controlling the land bridge to Crimea. Ukraine wants to exceed this, and then the route will pass through the critical junctions of Dokmok and Melitopol. Russian President Putin announced last week that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had failed. Rather early, as the attacks were intended to find weak spots in the Russian lines for the time being.
Those lines full of barricades, mines and entrenched troops are difficult to take. Russia has reinforced its front there with troops that could be withdrawn from Kherson province after blowing up the Khakovka dam.
But Ukraine has not yet established its main power – the question is where the center of gravity will be. For the expected major attack, according to estimates (which vary slightly), Kiev has about 50,000 men, some trained in the West, divided into about twelve regiments with Western weapons systems.
A big problem for Ukraine is that it lacks air superiority. There are serious discussions under Dutch leadership about the delivery of F-16s. The pilots have already been trained, but they won’t be flying over Ukraine for months.
Ukraine cannot deploy much air defense on its frontline, as its cities are daily targets of Russian missile and drone attacks. On Friday, the alarm sounded again in Kiev, where African leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, were guests. They make a mediating effort, from which little is expected. (Trouw/Eric Brassem)