“The main objection would be: does such a move really contribute to stability in Europe, or will it contribute to destabilization?” said Douglas E. Luth, former US ambassador to NATO. “I think it is indisputable that there will be no consensus among the 30 members, even though all allies agree that Ukraine has the right to seek to become a member of NATO.”
Stephen M. Walt is Professor of International Relations at the Harvard School of Government. Kennedy, said that even in the 1990s, when NATO expansion was first proposed, many prominent American strategists opposed it for that reason. “This has always been a concern – it will not be easy to do it in a way that does not threaten Russia,” he said.
Ukrainian leaders chatter about NATO membership.
Ukrainian leaders have not always pushed hard for NATO membership, and this has shaped the American approach.
Former President Viktor Yushchenko wanted to join the alliance, but after Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Ukrainians began to resist this. His successor, Viktor Yanukovych, abandoned any membership aspirations and promoted closer ties with Russia, even agreeing to let Moscow continue to lease the Black Sea naval port in Crimea.
Under the Obama administration, US officials urged Ukraine to sign a formal association agreement with the European Union rather than try to join NATO. Mr. Putin pressured Mr. Yanukovych to back out of the deal, leading to the Euromaidan protests in 2013 that ousted Mr. Yanukovych.
“Because of the circumstances, U.S. policy has been pretty reactive in many ways,” said Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution who was senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council under President Donald Trump. “It has also changed due to changes in Ukraine itself in this direction.”
“By now, Ukraine is much more inclined to join NATO,” she added.
Mr. Zelensky repeatedly pushed for Mr. Biden’s membership, including during his visit to the White House in September. “I would like to discuss here with President Biden his vision, his government’s vision of Ukraine’s chances of joining NATO, and the timing of that entry, if possible,” he said, sitting next to Mr. Biden.
Mr. Biden skipped those comments without responding.