Boris Johnson has called for NATO to set out a clear timetable for Ukraine to join the alliance – and claimed some member nations still want to negotiate a peace deal with Vladimir Putin.
The former prime minister made the intervention following the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, earlier in the week.
At the meeting, the security organisation said it planned to invite Ukraine into the group “when allies agree and conditions are met” – but did not reveal a timeline for this to happen.
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Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy was angered by the lack of the timetable, tweeting it was “unprecedented and absurd” not even to know when an invitation may come – and claimed this was being done so his country’s membership of NATO could be used “in negotiations in Russia“.
Mr Johnson echoed the sentiment.
He wrote in the Daily Mail: “As long as he [Vladimir Putin] thinks he can get away with violence against Ukraine, and others, he will use violence. As long as Ukraine is deprived of those formal article 5 NATO security guarantees that ensure the collective defence of all members, Putin will continue to inflict murder and mayhem – and to destabilise the world and the world economy.”
What is NATO article 5?
This is the agreement at the heart of NATO which states “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.
It was established in the alliance’s founding treaty in 1949. Since then, it has only been invoked once – by the US following the 9/11 attacks.
If Ukraine wasto join NATO and fall under the protection of article 5, it would mean an attack on the country by Russia would be considered an attack on the whole of the alliance – including the US, the UK, Germany, France and many others.
“That is why we in NATO must set out a timetable, as rapidly as possible. I know that is the ambition of the UK government, and I know how hard Britain has been campaigning behind the scenes. The reluctance does not lie in London; far from it.
“The problem is that there are still some of our friends and partners who think this war can only end in a negotiated solution. They believe that we should be craftily ambiguous now – because they think that the issue of Ukraine’s NATO membership could yet be part of the deal.
“You could make a bargain with Putin, they think: you get your troops out and we’ll keep Ukraine out of NATO.
“That is madness. Throughout this war there has been a Western tendency to make the same mistake, over and over again: to overestimate Putin, and to underestimate Ukraine.”
Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby asked Rishi Sunak when Ukraine would join the alliance at the Vilnius summit.
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The prime minister said “meaningful progress” had been made on Ukraine’s path to membership – including removing some of the requirements for the nation to join.
He stated Ukraine “will become” a member of the alliance and that the UK still advocates this position.
Mr Johnson also pointed out that, 15 years ago, NATO signed a similarly worded statement on potentially welcoming Ukraine and Georgia to the alliance – a change which has not yet taken place.
This agreement required Ukraine and Georgia to provide a “membership action plan” – a step waived by NATO for Mr Zelenskyy this week.
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Mr Johnson said: “No wonder President Zelenskyy found it hard, at first, to conceal his frustration.
“When allies agree? When conditions are met? According to the Bucharest conclusions, the allies agreed all this 15 years ago!
“When will we learn the lesson of the past 20 years of handling Putin? It is our very ambiguity, our vacillation, our sucking-and-blowing-at-once, which has prompted him to invade.
“As long as he thinks there is a chance that he can wrest Ukraine back into the orbit of Moscow – as long as he thinks he can recreate the Soviet Union – he will try.”