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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Too Soon, Too Late: What’s Really Blocking Ukraine’s Entry To NATO?

Volodymyr Zelensky has made his demand clear: full NATO membership for Ukraine, perhaps as soon as this year. Yet member countries, from the U.S. to top European allies, are still stuck in the mindset of not “provoking” Russia. But if not now, when?

Image of Volodymyr Zelensky standing at the arrival ceremony for the Summit of the European Political Community in Bulboaca, Moldova

Volodymyr Zelensky standing at the arrival ceremony for the Summit of the European Political Community in Bulboaca, Moldova

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Volodymyr Zelensky knows what he wants, and he’s not afraid to say it loud and say it clear. Yesterday in Chisinau, Moldova, before the leaders of 47 European states, the Ukrainian President demanded that NATO open its doors to Ukraine — and to do it as early as 2023.

"This is the year of decision", he added before an impressive array of heads of state and government gathered in Moldova, just across the border from his war-torn country.

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But it’s not that simple. Several of the Alliance's heavyweights, starting with its leader, the United States, are more than reluctant to let a country at war join an organization whose charter includes Article 5. This is the article that defines automatic solidarity with a member state under attack.

And beyond the United States, also Germany, and until recently France, which has begun to take action, fear being drawn unwittingly into a direct confrontation with Russia. For the past 15 months, they have been careful to calibrate their involvement so as not to become "co-belligerent," though that has not prevented them from arming Ukraine.

Between now and next month’s NATO summit in Vilnius, the U.S and its allies must find an answer to the pressing demands of Ukraine and its friends in Eastern Europe.

Twisted history

Ukraine’s accession to NATO is not a new issue. In 2008, France and Germany – at the time led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – fought hard at the NATO summit in Bucharest to block Ukraine's entry. Paris and Berlin feared provoking Moscow. The Bush administration was in favor. The result was an ill-judged decision: yes to membership, but one day... When? It wasn't said.

It’s either too late or too soon. Other solutions must therefore be found: they will undoubtedly take the form of security guarantees which, although not those of Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter, will satisfy Ukraine and act as a sufficient deterrent.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out in favor of "tangible and credible" security guarantees, something halfway between the Israeli option – i.e., U.S. assurances and aid to the Jewish state – and full NATO membership. The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, also spoke of "guarantees from like-minded states."

Image of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Selensky talking at the European Political Community summit in Moldova

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Zelensky talk at the European Political Community Summit in Moldova

© Kay Nietfeld / ZUMA

Eastern Flank

Such guarantees can only come from states that have the means and the credibility to do so. The United States, the United Kingdom and France, three nuclear powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council, stand out, as does Germany, the continent's leading economic power. A country on NATO's "eastern flank" will also be involved, no doubt Poland, which is investing massively in defense.

But what are such state commitments really worth? Ukraine has had a sad experience of this: in 1994, it received such assurances of non-aggression in the "Budapest Memorandum," signed in exchange for its renunciation of Soviet nuclear weapons. Among the signatories was Russia, and the rest is history...

There are still six weeks to go before the Vilnius summit to define an acceptable solution for Zelensky, whose main argument to impose himself is always the same: Ukraine is fighting for you. Indeed, this is the "blood money" that explains NATO’s current sense of urgency.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Science Of Designing A Sanctions Model That Really Hurts Moscow

On paper, the scale of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine is unprecedented. But opinion on the impact of sanctions remains divided in the absence of a reliable scientific foundation. A new study by Bank of Canada offers a way out.

Photo of people walking past a currency exchange rate board in Moscow on July 20.

People walking past a currency exchange rate board in Moscow on July 20.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya


The world has never seen sanctions like those imposed against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. There have been targeted sanctions, of course, or sanctions against rogue countries like North Korea with wide support from the international community. But never in history has there been such a large-scale sanctions regime against one of the world’s biggest and most important economies.

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Here's the thing though: these sanctions were introduced in a hurry because the West needed to respond to the war decisively. No one calculated anything, they relied on generalizations and holistic visions, they were “groping in a dark room,” as Elina Rybakova, senior researcher at the Brussels think tank Bruegel, put it.

As a result, debates around the effectiveness of sanctions and how best to use them to influence Russia continue to do the rounds.

Supporters of sanctions have a clear and unified message: we must stop Russia from being able to continue this war. We must deprive them of the goods and technologies necessary for the production of weapons and military equipment, and prevent Russians from living normal lives.

Opponents argue that the sanctions backfire. They insist that Russia is a large enough economy, highly integrated into the energy market and international supply chains, and therefore has enough resilience to withstand restrictions. Those who impose sanctions will be the ones to lose markets and suppliers. They will face increased energy prices and countless other problems. Russia will be able to replace lost relationships with new and even stronger ties with other states.

Economists at the Bank of Canada have attempted to resolve this debate and figure out who is hit hardest by sanctions. They pieced together a model featuring three parties: a country imposing sanctions, a country against which they were imposed, and a third independent country.

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