NATO divided on Ukraine's postwar status amid uncertainty over conflict
Published: Apr 08, 2023 12:06 AM
NATO eyes expansion into the Arctic. Cartoon: Vitaly Podvitski

NATO eyes expansion into the Arctic. Cartoon: Vitaly Podvitski

After officially accepting Finland as a member and promising it an "ironclad security guarantee," NATO is reportedly divided over Kiev's postwar status. Experts said the division is rooted in the uncertainty over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which is growing along with NATO's expansion. 

During a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers that concluded on Wednesday, the US, Germany and Hungary resisted efforts from countries such as Poland and the Baltic states to offer Kiev a roadmap to NATO membership, the Financial Times reported Thursday citing four unnamed officials involved in the talks.

This exposed divides in the West over Kiev's postwar status, read the report.

The US, Germany and Hungary resisted the roadmap as they are worried the move would provoke Russia, leading to a worsening of the situation, according to Zhang Hong, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  

A roadmap or timetable is also inappropriate at this moment as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still full of uncertainty, Zhang told the Global Times on Friday.    

Russia said in late March that it will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which experts said was a direct response to the UK's earlier decision to send depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine, and a warning to NATO over its increasing interference in the crisis. 

Washington is concerned that deepening ties during the war could fuel Putin's narrative of a battle between Russia and NATO itself and that Moscow may escalate the conflict, including by potentially deploying nuclear arms, according to the Financial Times. 

During this week's foreign ministers' meeting, Finland officially became NATO's 31st member

Finland and Sweden announced their intention to join NATO in May 2022, just months after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.

Including Finland, 22 member states of the EU are now members of NATO, Zhang pointed out. He predicted that Sweden is also likely to be accepted officially into NATO within this year.  

The root cause of the Russia-Ukraine crisis is NATO's expansion and its security threat to Russia, according to Zhang. With Finland's participation, NATO's influence now expands to the arctic area and the Baltic Sea, which worsens the security environment Russia faces, Zhang noted. 

The conflict between NATO and Russia over Europe's security framework will become more fierce along with NATO's expansion and there will be more uncertainty over the war in Ukraine, experts warned.   

The application of Finland and Sweden indicated that small countries in Europe are feeling growing security pressure amid uncertainty and risk along with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, experts pointed out. 

The official membership of Finland also indicated a historic shift away from the Nordic nation's traditional policy of neutrality, which Chinese experts believe now pushes Finland to the forefront against Russia and may spur Moscow to boost its nuclear deployment, thus making Europe's overall security landscape even more precarious.

For countries caught in between major powers, not taking sides is actually a very rational choice, experts said, noting that Finland's complete abandonment of its neutrality and putting itself at the forefront of NATO's confrontation against Russia will undoubtedly increase Finland's own security risks, instead of reducing them.

NATO is making the world a more dangerous place and in doing so it is resisting the emergence of alternative centers of power and increasingly asserting its global role and the ambition to spread its influence beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, adding that "time is ripe for the alliance to retire," Russian news agency TASS reported Thursday.

Zakharova believes that NATO is trying to "usurp the entire system of European security through Finland's accession," according to TASS.