Dalibor Rohac

Nato membership for Ukraine would guarantee peace in Europe

Volodymyr Zelensky (Credit: Getty images)

Although Western support to Ukraine’s defence effort continues unabated, the honeymoon between Kyiv and even its staunchest allies is decidedly over. In a recent interview, President Zelensky’s advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, said that Ukraine sees Poland as its close friend ‘until the end of the war.’ Then, he added, ‘competition between the countries will begin.’

The quote, which was immediately seized upon by Russian propaganda as evidence of a fracture in Ukraine’s key relationship, came off the back of a spat between Warsaw and Kyiv over the ban on imports of Ukrainian grain to Poland. The policy is due to remain in place until at least mid-September, even as Ukraine’s maritime export infrastructure is being destroyed by Russian bombing.

Nato membership for Ukraine would primarily be a way of managing the rise of a new European power

Ukrainian protests against the ban prompted Marcin Przydacz, secretary of state in the chancellery of the Polish president, to question Ukraine’s gratitude for Poland’s support. In retaliation, Kyiv summoned Poland’s ambassador – one of the few Western diplomats who had remained in the city in the early days of the Russian invasion.

In reality, there is nothing inherently wrong about frictions between Ukraine and its neighbours, driven by divergent interests. It is important, however, that Ukraine be included at the earliest possible moment into political structures designed specifically to manage such frictions: Nato and the EU. 

From the perspective of Poland and similar countries, Ukraine has long been a black hole of sorts, relevant only as a transit country for Russian oil and gas. Today, though, it is becoming a self-confident, heavily armed nation that has captured the world’s imagination by humiliating (supposedly) the world’s second largest military. 

As soon as it emerges from the war, Ukraine undoubtedly will strive to present itself as an attractive destination for foreign investment, enticing new projects away from countries such as Poland, Romania, or Hungary.

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