The prospects for Ukraine rapidly becoming a member of NATO have almost vanished thanks to Turkey, but there’s another application process taking place that hasn’t drawn as much attention. Within weeks of being attacked by Russia, Ukraine also applied for membership in the European Union. The leaders of several EU member nations including France and Germany offered an endorsement of Ukraine’s application this week, but the process of joining the union is typically very lengthy, even longer than joining NATO. There are a number of complicating factors to be considered, and how that might change the situation with the Russian invasion isn’t perfectly clear. But since the idea has been put on the table, the other members will be forced to weigh in on it presently. (Associated Press)
Ukraine’s request to join the European Union may advance Friday with a recommendation from the EU’s executive arm that the war-torn country deserves to become a candidate for membership in the 27-nation bloc.
The European Commission’s endorsement, while only a tentative step on a path that could take decades to complete, would send a strong symbol of solidarity with Ukraine and further test the EU’s united front against Russia amid the invasion of its neighbor…
Ukraine applied for EU accession less than a week after Russia invaded the country and as the capital, Kyiv, faced the threat of capture and the Ukrainian government falling.
The first thing to realize about this proposal is that a rapid addition of Ukraine to the European Union would be fully unprecedented. There are Balkan nations that applied for membership in the 1990s and early 2000s who are still waiting. Turkey applied in 1987 and only one of the thirty “chapters” of approval documentation is complete today. Allowing Ukraine to rush into the Union in a matter of months would leave all of those countries asking ‘what about us?’
This new chapter in the story is unfolding just as people are wondering if the United States is getting ready to give up on Ukraine and Russia is sounding like they plan to take the entire country over the next two years. Dragging the EU into the mix could spur yet another reversal in the tides of war.
Even if this was somehow done, would it have any impact on the ongoing war against Russia? Probably, but there are some twists to the answer to that question as well. The European Union does have a Mutual Defense Clause in its charter that is similar to NATO’s Article 5, but not exactly the same. It reads, in part, that “if an EU country is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other EU countries have an obligation to aid and assist it by all the means in their power.”
That sounds fairly straightforward on the surface, but the clause also includes exceptions that require the members to recognize and respect the neutrality of certain nations who traditionally chose such a stance. Of course, some of those neutral countries are now applying for NATO membership themselves, so their neutrality may no longer be assumed.
Let’s assume for the moment that Ukraine was rushed into EU membership. The majority of the rest of the member nations would be obligated to go to war against Russia in Ukraine. But do you know who wouldn’t be on the hook to attack the Russians in this scenario? The United States and Canada. Oh, and Great Britain as well, because of Brexit. But would we sit on our hands when 27 of our closest allies took on the Russian bear? How would that make the United States look? It seems unlikely in the extreme.
That leaves us with the bigger question that should come before the one we just addressed. If Ukraine were on the brink of being accepted into the EU this summer, would Putin pull out his forces and end the war knowing he was facing the prospect of being attacked by all of Europe and potentially the United States and Canada as well? The idea of giving up would definitely stick in his craw, but Russia has been having a hard enough time fighting just Ukraine’s relatively ragtag military forces. He couldn’t possibly prevail in a land war against that many armies, so he would be left with a choice between either giving up or breaking out his nukes. And then we’re back at the end of the world discussion we’ve been tossing around all year.