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It can be heard that Zelensky demands a security guarantee from a 3rd country (like Germany, Turkey, France, Poland). So what does it mean. Suppose Poland agrees. Then does it mean that the next time Ukraine is attacked, Poland will join from Ukraine side. And how is this different from Budapest agreement

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What Zelenskyy means is still unclear and still open to negotiation with Russia and the West. The Ukraine would like to have immediate NATO and EU membership, but NATO and EU have said that this is not going to happen anytime soon, and Zelenskyy seems to have concluded that asking time and again is not an effective negotiating strategy.

So Ukraine is now exploring "second-best solutions" which appear achievable, and tries to judge if they are sufficient for their needs.

  • EU membership would come with security guarantees under Article 42.7, but they are less practiced than NATO Article 5.
  • Promises from individual countries would have to be specific to be credible, and it would have to involve powerful countries close to Ukraine. No country is as close and militarily as powerful as Russia, so it would have to be a group. Poland would likely have to be part, and Germany, to assure logistics, but just those two might not deter Russia. The US is powerful, but they would need some others to help.

Yet if the assurances are too clear, they might be just as unacceptable to Russia as formal NATO membership, and if the guarantees are not part of a peace deal, it would mean the West going to war with Russia -- something President Biden has excluded several times. Perhaps the Russian military failures are so bad that President Putin looks for a face-saving exit, and "no NATO membership" might be this compromise even if the guarantees have the same substance. Or when the time for an agreement comes Russia still has a viable military position, and they can demand weaker guarantees as the price of their withdrawal.

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  • TBH, the Russian military failures were quite predictable. Ukraine is almost 1/3 the size of Russia by population, its people have been just as traumatized by WWII, and it was responsible for more than its fair share of Soviet military production. Russia's only hope was the Ukrainians saying "Oh hey, thanks for coming, we're with you guys!"
    – HK-51
    Apr 7 at 16:28
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    less practiced than NATO? I am not sure what you mean. Outside of 9/11 NATO never had invoke article 5 except for the Afghanistan mission (where NATO, as a whole, hardly shone - USA, Canada, UK did the bulk of the fighting). It did undertake several missions outside of its core concerns - Yugoslavia, Lybia. But NATO's never been tested to respond against an attack by a peer enemy like Russia. And responding to EU's mutual defense commitments would bring in a number of EU states that are NATO. Upvoted the answer but EU membership is probably pretty darn good militarily. Apr 7 at 18:42
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, NATO command staffs and political leaders have been training for more than half a century. EU command staffs haven't. They'd go "where is the manual" and "what's a GIUK Gap?"
    – o.m.
    Apr 8 at 4:32
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: indeed and 42.7 was invoked by France after the Paris attacks.
    – Fizz
    Apr 8 at 18:12
  • @o.m. Unlikely since a lot of those same officers would be from countries that are part of NATO. What I will say, and that plays to Russian concerns, is that the EU is hardly very good at making its mind up for collective military action, making the notion of it attacking anyone extremely remote. Not that believing in NATO attacking Russia isn't already a bit of an exercise in sniffing glue. Apr 9 at 0:56
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Budapest agreement didn't commit any of the signatories to helping if Ukraine was attacked.

You could have Poland agreeing and then refusing to come to help Ukraine if they are attacked - but that would require breaking a treaty, and treaties tend to be honoured. Not all of them, but most of them.

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