Poland and Baltics could join war if Ukraine isn’t offered pathway to NATO membership next month, former NATO chief warns

FILE - Former Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaks to the press, during his visit to Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

A former NATO secretary general has made the sensational claim that some member countries including Poland and the Baltic states may join the war with Ukraine should NATO leaders not provide cast-iron security guarantees to Kyiv and a future pathway to Ukrainian membership in the defense alliance.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister who served as the head of NATO between 2009 and 2014, insisted that Ukraine must be given sufficient guarantees about its future relationship with the West at next month’s NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

He warned that should these guarantees not be forthcoming, the most ardent Ukraine supporters within the alliance could take matters into their own hands and deploy troops to Ukraine.

“If NATO cannot agree on a clear path forward for Ukraine, there is a clear possibility that some countries individually might take action,” Rasmussen said. “We know that Poland is very engaged in providing concrete assistance to Ukraine, and I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that Poland would engage even stronger in this context on a national basis and be followed by the Baltic states, maybe including the possibility of troops on the ground.

“I think the Poles would seriously consider going in and assemble a coalition of the willing if Ukraine doesn’t get anything in Vilnius. We shouldn’t underestimate Polish feelings. The Poles feel that for too long Western Europe did not listen to their warnings against the true Russian mentality,” he added.

It is important to note that Rasmussen has spent the last year lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and co-chairs an international working group on security guarantees for Ukraine with Zelensky’s presidential office head, Andriy Yermak.

Such a move would not trigger NATO’s principle of collective defense and mandate NATO leaders such as the U.S. and U.K. to enter the war, as this is reserved explicitly for acts of aggression by belligerents against a NATO member’s sovereign territory. However, it would no doubt be a grave escalation to the conflict.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, the former NATO head said the only real security guarantee the West can provide in the long term is NATO membership for Ukraine.

“I think the time has come now to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO. Personally, I think it should be extended at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July this year, but if that cannot be achieved, then at least a clear path towards membership of NATO should be outlined.”

Poland and the Baltic states have been staunch defenders of Ukraine in the war rumbling on with Russia, and while Kyiv’s allies have continued to lobby for greater assistance for President Zelensky in the form of NATO fighter jets and more ammunition, there has not been any serious talk from the Polish government about military intervention.

When Poland’s ambassador to France, Jan Emeryk Rościszewski, suggested such a measure back in March, the Polish embassy in Paris swiftly issued a statement walking back the remarks, claiming his comments had been lost in translation and not given the context in which they were made by the media.

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