A former NATO secretary general has proposed that Ukraine join the military alliance, but strip it of territories occupied by Russia.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen has long worked alongside Andriy Yermak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, notably on the eve of the last NATO summit in Vilnius this year, which ended without an invitation for NATO membership. Ukraine.

The two again widely discuss Ukraine’s place in a new European security architecture, including practical questions regarding the extent of Ukraine’s membership in NATO.

Rasmussen, who served as NATO secretary general between 2009 and 2014, insisted that a proposed partial membership for Ukraine would not symbolize a freezing of the conflict, but rather mark a determination to warn Russia that it cannot prevent Ukraine from joining the Western defensive alliance.

Next summer, NATO is scheduled to hold its 75th anniversary summit in Washington, and the question of Ukraine’s future membership is sure to be a major topic.

Ukrainian leaders were bitterly disappointed when, under American and German pressure, NATO at its summit this year issued a statement saying that Ukraine would be offered an invitation when conditions permitted, thereby rejecting Ukraine’s request for a specific date.

Instead, Ukraine’s relations with NATO were strengthened at the margins by the creation of a Ukraine-NATO council and by an agreement that NATO members would bilaterally offer security guarantees to Ukraine.

Rasmussen said that the cause of Ukraine’s NATO membership cannot be postponed again until next year. He said: “The time has come to take the next step and invite Ukraine to join NATO. We need a new European security architecture in which Ukraine is at the heart of NATO.”

Those arguing for Ukraine’s membership in NATO have been paralyzed by the virtual impossibility for a country at war to be offered membership, because under NATO’s collective self-defense clause Article 5 of NATO, all NATO member states are required to actively defend the country. in conflict. All of Ukraine’s membership in NATO would effectively signal to Russia that NATO was about to go to war with Moscow.

By excluding territories held by Russia from NATO, the threat of conflict between Russia and NATO would be reduced, says Rasmussen.

Rasmussen denied the move would freeze the conflict, ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia. He said: “The absolute credibility of Article 5 guarantees would deter Russia from increasing attacks inside Ukrainian territory within NATO and thus free Ukrainian forces to move to the front line. »

He said: “To make Article 5 credible would require a clear message to Russia that any violation of NATO territory would result in a response. He said that in some ways the proposal amounts to imposing a no-fly zone on Russia so that it cannot fly over Ukrainian territory or send missiles into Ukrainian cities.

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Discussions are underway to recruit military specialists ahead of the next NATO summit to examine the details of their idea, including how, in the context of shifting front lines, a credible dividing line could be plotted, showing Ukrainian territory considered part of NATO and territory occupied by Russia. .

Rasmussen said there was an unclear precedent since West Germany joined the alliance in 1955, and that Article 5 covered its territory but not that of East Germany.

He outlined three main reasons why Ukraine would be offered membership. Ukraine, within NATO, would act as a bulwark against an ever-aggressive Russia. Second, he said: “We must understand that gray areas are danger zones. Neutrality in the old sense of the world no longer exists. Gray areas encourage Putin to attack.” Finally, he argued that the Ukrainian army is now the most battle-hardened army in Europe and would be an asset and an example for other European powers.

He said a total of 25 countries, in addition to the G7 countries, were negotiating bilateral security agreements with Ukraine under a framework agreement called the Kiev Security Pact, meant to serve as a bridge to a full membership in NATO. The deal provides for large-scale arms transfers, increased intelligence sharing and support for Ukraine’s defense industry so it can produce weapons and munitions more independently.

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