Foreign Affairs

Russia-Ukraine, NATO and EU—Broken Down

As events continue to unfold, it is essential to understand the various relationships Ukraine possesses with countries around the world. This article aims to break down several of these relationships including Russia’s tension with Ukraine, NATO’s relationship with Ukraine and Ukraine’s attempt to join the European Union. 

On  Feb. 24, Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine after days of U.S. intelligence warning that President Vladimir Putin would invade. Within several days of the invasion, the Russian military forced their way to the Capital of Ukraine in Kyiv. Ukrainian forces continue holding their own, more than Russia anticipated. However, as the Russian military is arguably more powerful, Ukraine officials have appealed for international assistance. 

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 countries. The alliance was established in the aftermath of World War II and is dedicated to preserving democratic values and protecting the peaceful resolution of disputes. Members and aspiring members of NATO must agree to several articles (and a more protracted process), all revolving around the sole desire for nations across the globe to live in peace with all people and governments. 

There are currently thirty members of NATO: twenty eight in Europe and two in North America. However, Ukraine is not a member. After Ukraine’s application to begin a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008 , the alliance welcomed Ukraine and pledged that the country would eventually become a member, though not providing a specific timeline, Ukraine is currently yet to be formally admitted. Presently, Ukraine is considered one of NATO’s “enhanced opportunity partners”—a non-member nation that has made “significant contributions to NATO-led operations and missions.” 

There are several Articles in the North Atlantic Treaty relevant to the situation in Ukraine. First, 

Article 1: members are to settle any national dispute through peaceful means in which they may be involved. Hence, NATO’s active efforts to provide Ukraine with utmost assistance without establishing a potential World War. 

Second, Article 5: an armed attack against one or more of the parties in Europe or North America “shall be considered an attack against them all” and that each member assists the Party or Parties attacked. Members must, either individually or in unison with other Parties, take necessary actions including “the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” Because Ukraine is NATO-affiliated (not necessarily a member), the alliance continuously makes public its support of Ukraine while sending countless items of war equipment. 

And lastly, Article 10: Parties in the unanimous agreement may invite any other European state in “a position to further the principles of this Treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.” Since this process is extremely analytical and complex, Ukraine’s immediate admission into NATO is not likely. 

However, Ukraine’s progression towards formal admission to NATO threatens President Putin’s agenda.

With this in mind, Russian aggression towards Ukraine can be therefore interpreted as a violent attempt to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and Ukraine’s subsequent declaration of independence, Russia has perceived NATO’s expansion and influence in European countries as a threat. NATO’s expansion towards Russian borders has claimed four NATO members surrounding Ukraine’s borders. In an article written by President Putin, he states his belief that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.”

Now, as Ukrainians defend themselves against the brutal forces of the Russian military, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is begging for help. 

What are NATO countries doing to help Ukraine?

When the invasion happened, NATO reported that Allies were boosting their political and practical support towards Ukraine’s self-defense against Russia’s invasion. Seventeen NATO members—including the United States, Germany and Poland—are already sending or in the process of approving sending military equipment to Ukraine. Critical military equipment– such as thousands of anti-tank weapons, hundreds of air-defense missiles, and thousands of small arms and ammunition stocks– are underway to Ukraine. 

Last week, the United States Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, authorized President Biden’s request to support Ukraine. The U.S. has pledged to provide up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defenses, including lethal defensive assistance. Blinken called this package “a clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation.” 

In response to the situation in Ukraine, Germany reversed a longstanding policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones. The German government is expected to send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine. In a statement to Politico, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Russian invasion of Ukraine “threatens our entire post-war order,” and asserted that “it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”

Poland, which sits at Ukraine’s border, is aiding Ukrainians seeking refuge. Its government said that Poland prepared hospitals and a train to transport Ukrainians wounded in the invasion. Before the attack, Poland pledged to send military support to Ukraine in the event of an invasion. “A convoy of ammunition we provided to Ukraine has already reached our neighbors. We support Ukrainians, we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and we firmly oppose Russian aggression,” tweeted Poland’s Military of Defense. 

Apart from military defenses being sent by NATO nations, the United States and Europe placed multiple economic sanctions planned to destabilize the Russian government. Russian currency is currently witnessing a fall in its worth as the ruble fell about 30% against U.S. dollar. The ruble is now worth less than 1 U.S. cent. In an attempt to stabilize the harsh sanctions, Russia will keep its stock market closed, which continues to set the country’s assets plunging. Although the Russian economy is hurting, the people of Russia are carrying the burden such as the economic sanctions placed by the United States. 

How has Ukraine’s Relationship with the European Union been affected?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy officially signed an application for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union after extensive appeals for European support against Russia. 

The European Union comprises 27 European countries whose values are the fundamental rights of individual freedoms, the preservation of equality and valuing human dignity. The establishment of the EU came after World War II in attempts to unify Europe democratically, implement rule of law and defend human rights . After several decades of ironing out the complexities of establishing unity between European countries, the Maastricht Treaty signed in February of 1992 created the European Union. The EU stands for rule of law between its members and most importantly, aims to promote peace and the well-being of its citizens. 

“We appeal to the European Union for Ukraine’s immediate accession under a new special procedure,” said President Zelenskyy in his appeal to the European Union. “…Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal.” 

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that Ukraine will become an official member as fast as President Zelenskyy demanded. “They [Ukraine] is one of us, and we want them in,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. 

The process of joining the European Union is a long process that can take up to a decade for a country to finally be a member. A country needs unanimous approval by all EU member nations. Then, the applying nation must adopt a political system, judiciary, and economy compatible with the bloc. 

Despite the expected delay in this process, the support behind NATO and the EU towards Ukraine is maintaining sufficient damage to President Putin’s plans to topple the Ukrainian government. 

In summary

Ukraine’s military is holding their own for now; Russian forces are being challenged. The people of Ukraine for days now have armed themselves for further impact. Countries around the world continue to show their support to Ukraine whether through economic sanctions on Russia or sending military equipment so the people of Ukraine may continue to defend themselves. 

Meanwhile, Russian bank customers no longer have access to Google Pay and Apple Pay because of these newly implemented financial sanctions. According to the president of the European Commision, Ursula von der Leyen, over 70% of the Russian banking market and state-owned companies are currently affected by these sanctions. 

Innocent Russian civilians suffering as a result of the erratic behavior of their president. There have been a number of anti-war protests in Russia which its government is attempting to shut down. Since the invasion, Russia has detained more than 6,000 protestors over the Ukraine war. 

As tensions continue, Ukrainians are showing the world their valor and resistance. 

How to support Ukraine: 

Since the war, people online watching the events in Ukraine unfold have lent a helping hand through donations posted on social media. Ukraine on Twitter (@ukraine) regularly posts updates about where people can donate along with photos and tweets about the country’s resilience towards Russian forces. The National Bank of Ukraine or  military assistance in Ukraine are two options that Ukraine has posted on its Twitter. If money is not a viable option, there are plenty of organizations on Twitter that are accepting other donations that might be an alternative way to support Ukraine. 


There is also an article by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center that informs consumers of news how to distinguish between Russian propaganda and disinformation. There are several organizations which they linked within the article where people may donate. Staying informed is extremely important. The New York Times created an entire page solely for live updates on the Ukraine and Russian conflict with articles ranging back to the beginning of the invasion.

Categories: Foreign Affairs

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