is a guarantee against the occurrence of a more bloody phase of war in Europe.
The process of Ukraine's integration into NATO standards is taking place directly during the ongoing combat operations, a sixteen-month war against Russian aggression, a bloody struggle for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the very heart of Europe, there is this "hard" proof that Ukraine is worthy of being a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. There is no such level of interaction with the Alliance, and perhaps even with most countries in the world. Taking all this into account, it is appropriate to say that Ukraine is de facto already "one foot" in NATO.
Undoubtedly, Ukraine's chances of joining NATO in the near future will largely depend on the conditions under which the Russo-Ukrainian war concludes and the stability of the peace that follows. All of this raises significant concerns among Ukraine's partners, primarily the United States, which fears that Ukraine may not be able to regain control over its entire territory by the end of the war. In such a case, this unresolved issue would increase the risk of a new outbreak of conflict. Putin has done everything to trap both countries in a quagmire with no way out for many years, solidifying in the Russian constitution the territories belonging to Ukraine. However, there are various factors that may contribute to the ongoing war eventually ending with a real and sustainable peace in the foreseeable future.
One of these factors is the potential changes within the Russian Federation that would bring to power individuals capable of amending the current Russian Constitution under international pressure or finding like-minded allies within the Russian political sphere to initiate negotiations regarding the exclusion of the territories of Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson from the Russian Constitution.
As long as Russia, whose Constitution includes Ukrainian regions, even if it doesn't exercise control over them, continues to perceive Ukraine as an occupier of Russian territories, it will always act as a revanchist state. This may sound absurd, but it is a reality that Ukraine has to contend with.
However, Ukraine, with the support of the civilized world, is ready to continue the war to reclaim its territories and restore territorial integrity. In this context, Ukraine and Russia pose an existential threat to each other. Living in a state of enmity is the fate of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples for many years to come. This is the only thing that will determine the development of both countries in the coming decades, even in the event of a cessation of hostilities in the near future.
It should be noted that any cessation of hostilities is a prelude to a new conflict, a new cycle of hatred. What is the way out of this complex situation? Ukraine needs to stop fearing Russia and focus not on revenge but on developing the country and restoring a peaceful life. And for this to happen, there is one essential step to take – becoming a member of NATO.
If we agree with the axiom that Russia is not ready to engage in a nuclear conflict that could lead to the disappearance of civilization, then we must realize that the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) is the only way for Ukraine to survive, preserve its statehood, and protect its population on internationally recognized territories. Moreover, for a non-nuclear state, being under a nuclear umbrella is perhaps the only viable option. In the event that Ukraine becomes a member of NATO, all the conditions of the nightmarish game initiated by Putin with the aim of capturing Ukraine would change. Putin would be forced to choose between Ukraine's accession to the Alliance and nuclear war, as continued military aggression could trigger retaliatory actions by NATO countries, potentially leading to a nuclear confrontation with devastating consequences for Russia. It is unlikely that such a prospect is desirable for the current President of Russia.
The question of how Ukraine can join NATO is indeed complex. The formula being considered prior to the Vilnius Summit, as voiced after the meeting of NATO defense ministers, is something along the lines of: "Ukraine must definitely become a member of NATO after the war is over, although there is no consensus on this issue." Translated from bureaucratic language to human terms, it roughly means, "Fight as long as you want." This is a kind of signal to Putin: "We won't interfere; we'll accept Ukraine if you stop the war." But Putin does not want to stop it; he simply revels in it. The formula of "we'll accept Ukraine into NATO when the war ends" has outlined the format of perpetual war.
Certainly, Putin is open to a ceasefire, but on the condition of Ukrainian neutrality and the prospect of Ukraine becoming an easy prey in the near future. As for Ukraine, he is prepared to fight it as long as he has the resources and manpower. For now, the possibility of Ukraine joining the Alliance before the war ends is seen as unrealistic.
Indeed, in the modern world, which is rapidly heading towards a global confrontation between democracies and dictatorships, in a world that has already experienced a major war, nothing is impossible. Just a year ago, European partners were discussing humanitarian aid and non-lethal equipment supplies. Today, Ukraine is receiving state-of-the-art military technology and equipment. The West has shifted to the practice of raising the stakes and will continue to do so as long as Russia is willing to fight. Security assurances for Ukraine, demonstrating to Russia that the West is ready to defend Ukraine not only with weapon supplies, can be another escalation in this war.
NATO countries are already seeking and preparing a coordinated solution to this issue. The discussion will continue until the NATO summit itself, and it is possible that final decisions will be coordinated in Vilnius. Sweden and Finland have taken their own path by submitting their applications for NATO membership, avoiding a lengthy procedure. However, most importantly, even before joining NATO (Sweden is awaiting the completion of the procedure), they have received security guarantees from the United States and the United Kingdom. Such a formula could also be suitable for Ukraine.
Most likely, this formula will not be relevant at the Vilnius Summit, but the next NATO summit will take place in Washington during the height of the presidential campaign, and the war in Ukraine is likely to escalate to new deadly levels. It is at this summit that Ukraine should receive an official invitation accompanied by security guarantees. This would undoubtedly be a triumph for President Biden's political concept regarding support for Ukraine.