Ukraine’s NATO membership will become a reality if Ukraine’s armed forces liberate the Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions during the counteroffensive, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama said at a Kyiv conference.
“While we wait for the Ukrainian counteroffensive, we have to think how the war can end under the current conditions. Peace negotiations, a temporary ceasefire would be a very bad scenario, as it would leave Russia in control of Donbas. There’s an even deeper issue: as long as Vladimir Putin is in power, any ‘peace agreements’ will simply give Russia the opportunity to rearm its troops for a later resumption of the war,” Fukuyama said.
The professor noted that any possible agreement between Russia and Ukraine should include much stronger security guarantees for Ukraine than just verbal promises like the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Fukuyama believes that only Ukraine’s NATO membership and “Article 5 guarantees” can deter the renewal of Russia’s war against Ukraine in the future.
“NATO membership will become a reality if, thanks to the counteroffensive, Ukraine regains (full control of) the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions on the Black Sea coast,” said Professor Fukuyama. In his view, the return of this region is extremely important for Ukraine’s negotiating position for three reasons.
First, it will make it possible to restore Ukraine’s opportunities for exports from Black Sea ports. Second, it will provide an opportunity to rescue Ukrainian citizens who are currently trapped there. And third, it will reduce Russia’s opportunities to supply Crimea.
“After all, the return of these territories to Ukraine will block Russia’s land corridor to Crimea and put the Kerch Bridge in grave danger. In addition, the Ukrainians will again be able to block the canal supplying water to the peninsula,” Fukuyama said.
“It is possible that this Ukrainian counteroffensive will be incredibly successful and Russian forces will fail along the entire front, but a more modest and probably more realistic scenario is that Ukraine will liberate the Kherson region and Zaporozhye by the end of the summer,” Fukuyama predicted.
Professor Fukuyama pointed out that the effectiveness of any agreement with Russia depends fundamentally on Ukraine’s membership in NATO:
“It is obvious that it will be impossible to achieve a truce and stability between Ukraine and Russia without Ukraine’s membership of NATO,” he said.
He said he is certain that Putin will find it hard to survive the loss of Crimea:
“I think they will find themselves in a very difficult situation.”