The specificity of the meeting was that only NATO members could attend it, and partners (including Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden, Finland) were not invited. But support for Ukraine and Georgia was discussed.
Earlier, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to hear a direct response from US President Joe Biden on the issue of submitting an Action Plan for NATO membership. Since the partner countries were not invited, this question was posed to US President Joe Biden by journalists.
So what Biden answered to this, what are the chances of Ukraine to get the MAP, what are the leaders' forecasts for joining the North Atlantic Alliance?
The first mention of the MAP
The NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) is a political reform and homework path that leads a country to NATO membership. After receiving the MAP, there is no set deadline for admission. Montenegro joined 8 years after receiving the MAP, North Macedonia – after 21.
At the summit, for the first time in recent years, the final communique said that Ukraine will receive membership through the MAP. This is important because there were no such formulations before.
"We reaffirm the decision taken in 2008 at the NATO Bucharest summit that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance and that the Membership Action Plan (MAP) will be an integral part of this process," the document says.
When Ukraine will receive the MAP is not specified.
NATO called on Ukraine to implement the Annual National Programs: to promote reforms, implement NATO principles and standards.
The communique noted that the Enhanced Opportunities Partnership, which Ukraine received in 2020, “adds momentum to our already ambitious cooperation and promotes subsequent (military) interoperability. "
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that a few days before the NATO summit, there was no mention of the MAP in the declaration. They insisted on making it.
"A couple of days before the summit, there was no mention of the MAP for Ukraine in the text of the declaration. It is true that we literally gnawed it at the last moment thanks to our own persistence, honest conversation with NATO and the strong support of our key friends," Kuleba said.
What else does Ukraine need to do?
NATO leaders reiterated that the path to membership lies through successes in reforms. This is one of the conditions for granting MAP.
The Allied joint decision calls on Ukraine to pursue further "large-scale, sustainable and irreversible reforms" in both the security and defense sector and elsewhere. It was also about decentralization, respect for human rights, reform of the SBU.
The decision, in particular, briefly referred to the need for “respect for minorities”. This requirement is being put forward by Hungary.
Signal from Washington to Ukraine and NATO
Donald Trump declared the Alliance was useless and advocated cuts in funding. Joe Biden, at the summit, reassured Brussels and said that "defending Europe is a sacred duty for the United States."
The American president also mentioned Ukraine. He stressed that the fighting in Donbas is not an obstacle to membership. The decisions are taken by the member countries, but there is no consensus yet.
When asked "Ukraine wants a clear answer regarding the prospects for joining NATO," Joe Biden said that Ukraine will gain NATO membership after it defeats corruption. According to him, the state will be able to obtain the MAP when it meets the criteria set by NATO.
This applies to strong state institutions, the rule of law and other signs of a developed democracy.
"It depends on whether they fulfill the conditions. They still need to clean up corruption, meet other requirements in order to start implementing the NATO Membership Action Plan, so we will see. Ukraine will need to convince NATO member countries, and it will not be easy," stated Biden.
One of the topics of the summit is Russian aggression
The summit also spoke about "the confrontation between democracy and autocratic regimes."
NATO called on the Russian Federation to end financial and military support for militants in Donbas, to ensure free shipping in the Sea of Azov and to fulfill the Minsk agreements. The leaders of the Alliance countries also noted that they condemn and do not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Alliance will build up its potential to contain Russia. The allies note that the recent massive build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine's borders has escalated and undermined security.
NATO will not return to normal business with Russia until Moscow "demonstrates compliance with international law of its international obligations," the communiqué said.
NATO's statements about the prospects for membership were rather restrained. Stoltenberg said at a press conference following the summit that "the main message is that the Alliance is in solidarity with Ukraine."
"We provide strong political support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We provide practical support and we will intensify our practical support in NATO, as well as at the bilateral level from various NATO allies," the secretary general explained.
At the same time, the NATO Secretary General added that only Ukraine and NATO member countries make a decision on its membership. Russia has no voice at all on this issue.
“Every nation has the right to choose its own path, including which security measures it wants to be part of, including NATO membership. The message is that Ukraine and its 30 allies will decide when Ukraine becomes a NATO member. Russia, of course, not has the right to vote because it cannot prohibit its neighbors from doing anything, "Stoltenberg said.
He stressed that "we will not go back to the days when we had spheres of influence, where great powers decided what little neighbors could do."