Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing for an
urgent membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) after Russian
forces annexed four regions in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk region through a
referendum which western powers, including the United States, have snubbed as
. Kyiv has been vying for NATO membership for years and the east European
nation’s proximity to NATO and its potential geopolitical ramifications for
Russia one of the primary reasons why Moscow sent its troops to Ukraine on
February 24 this year.

Zelensky said Friday that Ukraine has submitted an ‘accelerated’
application for membership of NATO. The Ukraine president also made an
incendiary remark targeting Russian president Vladimir Putin during his speech.
“We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but … with another president of
Russia,” the Ukrainian leader said.

Meanwhile, Putin has kept up his aggressive rhetoric. He
accused western powers and its allies of seeking Russia’s destruction. The
Russian president also vowed to keep the newly-annexed parts of Ukraine
protected by “all available means”. Putin has firmly maintained that any
prospect of Ukraine joining the military alliance is a red line for him.  

What is NATO?

NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was born in
1949. An intergovernmental military alliance with over 30 member nations, NATO
comprises 38 European countries and two North American nations. NATO was set up
in the aftermath of the Cold War. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in
1990, NATO has been part of the West’s military efforts in the Balkans, West
Asia, South Asia and Africa.

Ukraine believes a NATO membership will bolster Ukraine’s
ability to fight the Russians, and Kyiv has been receiving NATO support in the
form of weapons as well as in other ways.

How does a country obtain NATO membership?

NATO follows an ‘open door policy’. The decision to ask a
country to join the alliance rests exclusively on members and the decision is
taken unanimously. The process of joining NATO is governed by Article 10 of the
treaty which states:

“The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other
European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to
contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.
Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its
instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America.
The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties
of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.”

Can Ukraine join NATO?

Finland and Sweden are the newest members of NATO. The two
countries joined the alliance in 2022. Ukraine has been looking for a
membership for years, but the potential of disturbance in the region owing to
Russia’s aggressive stance on NATO membership for Ukraine has not allowed the
process to go through.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has remained noncommittal
to Ukraine’s accelerated request for membership. He said leaders of the
alliance “support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path, to decide what kind
of security arrangements it wants to be part of.”

Whether Zelensky’s request for an urgent membership is
adhered to or not is for the future to say.