Januška on Vilnius NATO Summit: Pros and Cons

President Zelensky at the Vilnius Lukiškių Sq. during the Vilnius NATO Summit. Photo Ruslanas Iržikevičius

What important events took place in Vilnius Nato Summit regarding Ukraine, with what victories and perhaps grievances is Ukrainian President V.Zelensky returning home from Vilnius, asks Albinas Januška, one of the most important Lithuanian foreign policymakers during the first two decades of Lithuania’s independence, on his Facebook wall?

We offer his optimistic and non-optimistic (“critical realist”) views.


1. Zelensky and Ukraine retained their “star” status, met with world leaders again, and the world press covered Ukraine’s war and aid extensively.

2. Although not invited to NATO, the door was not closed, and NATO membership is theoretically possible in the future.

3. Received a succession of pledges and commitments for the supply of arms and ammunition on a bilateral basis (already over 160 billion in total aid since the start of the war).

4. The first Ukraine-NATO Council took place, increasing Ukraine’s political and military cooperation with NATO.

5. The Israeli model is starting to be implemented. the G-7 leaders issued a statement on its commitment to reform, in return for which it received a statement from the G-7 on Ukraine’s commitment to long-term economic and military security support – land, air, sea, intelligence – after the war. This means that, after the war, the major democracies are pledging to help rebuild Ukraine’s economy and its military in order to deter Russia in the future potentially. This document should, in theory, guarantee continuity of support in the event of changes of government (especially in the US), which is essentially why it was conceived. It is roughly what Biden called an Israeli-style guarantee (Israel receives around 3.8 billion in aid from the US each year). This paves the way for Ukraine to negotiate with individual G-7 countries on the content, quantity and timing of bilateral aid. Other countries may also join, e.g. Lithuania can also join.

6. The need for a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine has been removed, recognising its potential readiness.

7. G-7 countries committed to punishing those responsible for the war, punishing Russia financially, and strengthening sanctions.


1. Not discussing the NATO resolution with Mr Zelensky is not in line with the declared spirit of the NATO-Ukraine Council. Some wanted to punish Ukraine and Mr Zelensky for taking too tough a stance; Lithuania, as host, did not insist on listening to the Ukrainian President.

2. NATO did not invite Ukraine into NATO and did not even give any more concrete perspective for the future.

3. NATO’s basic “dogmas”-NATO is not at war with Russia, and NATO does not accept countries that are unstable and do not control their territory-remained undiscussed, unshakeable iron. This means that the earliest possible NATO membership is “post-war”. Since it is not clear what ‘after the war’ is, unfortunately, the possibility remains for Russia to be aggressive, to kill, not to enter into peace negotiations, and not to give up territories.

4. As an addendum, additional “dogmas” (or broader interpretations of former ones) were formulated for Zelensky in Vilnius – “symbolically” in Vilnius and during the NATO summit or the preparations for it. One of them was previously threatened by Russia, now formulated by the President of Lithuania and supported by some – inviting Ukraine would cause a third world war (that is, NATO would cause it, not Russia). And the other is that inviting Ukraine would not stop Russian aggression but would draw NATO into the conflict. So Ukraine’s path to membership before the end of the war became more difficult or impossible.

5. To make it not easy for Mr Zelensky and a struggling Ukraine, Mr Biden bluntly announced that Ukraine was not ready for membership and would have to work on democratisation, reform and military compatibility. The fight for European freedom does not count. Another “dogma” – Ukraine is not ready. The saddest thing is that no one has publicly opposed or argued against this, not even Lithuania. All right, apparently. So the weight on Zelensky’s and Ukraine’s feet on the road to NATO has increased. You want to join NATO, take the additional conditions, friends said.

6. We are not an Amazon store, said UK Defence Secretary Wallace in response to Mr Zelensky’s request for long-range ATACMS. This means that the taboo on certain weapons that Ukraine particularly needs remains, and “no” is sometimes already being answered (slipping out) in rather rude language.

7. Ukraine needs to be more grateful, say both UK Defence Secretary Wallace and US National Security Advisor Sullivan.  The Ukrainian President reacted with confusion as to whether he should say thank you every morning. But he had to give thanks at every opportunity. This means that the narrative of a generous West and Ukrainians who are not always polite and grateful enough continues. And nobody has resisted this; nobody has found the opportunity to say publicly from a high rostrum, not even Lithuania as host, that it is we who should be thanking Ukraine every morning when they are fighting with their lives for our security, which we are buying, without spending even half as much as we did in Afghanistan, where we had to fight our own troops.

8. The G-7 guarantees of aid on the Israeli model are something that Ukraine obviously could not refuse – not in this position. And while it is said that this is not a substitute for NATO membership, at least that is what may be in the pipeline as an alternative, depending on how the war situation and European geopolitics evolve (but then, if it is already on the Israeli model, Ukraine would need nuclear weapons for full deterrence). Moreover, it would essentially be the creation of another not-quite-right European security architecture, where Ukraine might not be a member of NATO, but with Israeli-style guarantees of assistance in a semi-grey area and European cooperation with the “new” Russia.

9. NATO, in its resolution, did not identify what the specific objectives of the war in Ukraine are, what victory is, not even the important words that Ukraine’s objectives are NATO’s objectives. It leaves the future open to various possibilities.

10. There has been no new qualitative breakthrough in the supply of arms and ammunition. Heavy Western military equipment is already visible on the front line, but the heads of military units still have to find their own donors for smaller but equally important items. Lithuania is seen as a facilitator here.

11. No clearer position on the fear of escalation has emerged.

12. Mr. Zelensky, although thanked in Vilnius, will have problems “selling” NATO’s Vilnius decisions to his troops in the trenches.

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