Back to the Future: NATO Foreign Ministers renew vague promises of membership to Ukraine and Georgia 14 years later

A review of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting, Bucharest, Romania, 29-30 November 2022

The two-day NATO Foreign Ministerial meeting in Bucharest Romania was the last NATO ministerial meeting this year, and the second since the NATO Madrid Summit in June 2022. Holding it in a member country on the alliance's Eastern flank was designed to send a clear message to Moscow that NATO is active in a region close to the war in Ukraine. The NATO Foreign Ministers were joined throughout the two days by their Swedish and Finnish counterparts, but only as “invitees”, since Turkey and Hungary have still to ratify their membership applications.  A second group of four other non-NATO foreign ministers were also present at part of the meeting: Ukraine's Dmytro Kuleba and the foreign ministers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova. Four main issues were discussed during the ministerial meeting: Continuing support to Ukraine; Support for three other NATO partners: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova; Progress on strengthening resilience of critical infrastructure within the alliance; and The challenges posed by China.

Key activities and decisions taken by the NATO Foreign Ministers:

  • The meeting sent "a strong message of NATO unity, and of sustained support to Ukraine", with the Secretary General reaffirming NATO will continue to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.  NATO’s current position on Ukraine was set out in a statement.
  • Additional pledges were reportedly made to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine, which funds urgent non-lethal support including fuel and generators, but very few details of those pledges were given.
  • The NATO Secretary General participated in a G7 foreign ministerial meeting that secured commitments for an “emergency infrastructure coordination mechanism to assist Ukraine".
  • The meeting reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s right to choose its own path, including NATO membership. But 14 years after first agreeing to accept Ukraine (and Georgia) as members of the alliance, the path towards membership remains vague.
  • Norway offered to host an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in 2023, to help prepare for the Vilnius Summit in July 2023. 
  • The long-term challenges posed by China were discussed, but seemingly no new policy commitments were made.
  • The importance of meeting NATO’s resilience guidelines, maintaining NATO’s technological edge, and continuing to strengthen cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific region and with the EU were also stressed.
  • It was agreed to step up “tailored support” to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova, including on capacity-building, reform, and training to improve their security and defence institutions. 

Read more in the attached pdf.