21 Security Agreements: Ukraine's Bridge to NATO?

Since January, Ukraine has already concluded 21 security agreements with Western countries. What do they bring? DW asked the experts.

by Sededin Dedovic
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21 Security Agreements: Ukraine's Bridge to NATO?
© Bonnie Cash / Getty Images

The NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in July 2023 ended in disappointment for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine did not receive an official invitation for NATO membership or a concrete plan for joining.

Instead, the leaders of the G7 countries, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission signed a joint declaration of support for Ukraine. According to this document, concrete bilateral long-term commitments and agreements in the field of security are being developed with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president's office referred to these as "security agreements." Since then, much has happened. At the current NATO summit in Washington, writes DW, marking the 75th anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance, Ukraine can boast of 21 signed security agreements.

But, what benefits has Ukraine gained from them so far?

The Agreement with the UK as a Model

The United Kingdom was the first country with which Ukraine signed such an agreement. It provides assistance in "protecting" and "re-establishing internationally recognized borders." This agreement, signed in mid-January 2024, served as a model for other agreements, says Oleskandr Krajev from the independent research center "Foreign Policy Council 'Ukrainian Prism'"

: British Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer (left) meets with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky for a bilateral meeting at a© Pool / Getty Images

The UK led the way in providing security funds, says Krajev.

Additionally, it stipulated that every agreement should include support for Ukraine's NATO membership. All G7 member countries (the strongest industrial nations) and most EU members have already signed security agreements with Ukraine.

Regardless, in late June, "joint security guarantees between Ukraine and the European Union" were agreed upon. The latest security agreement was signed with Poland on July 8 during the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Warsaw.

On that very day, Russia carried out new devastating missile attacks on Ukrainian cities. "Whoever defends Ukraine today is also defending themselves," says Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. He assured that Ukraine can count on Poland's support in its efforts to become a NATO member.

The Ukrainian president stated that they want to create a mechanism to shoot down Russian missiles and drones over Ukraine from Poland if they approach Poland.

Each Agreement Has Its Specifics

All security agreements include commitments for military, financial, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

"According to the agreements, these countries commit to providing Ukraine with access to certain technologies, investing in the defense industry, and strengthening defense capabilities," explains Oleksandr Krajev.

Ukrainian recruits and their British Armed Forces trainers pose for a photograph on an AS90 self-propelled artillery system at a© Leon Neal / Getty Images

However, these agreements have their specifics.

Germans particularly emphasized aid to the Ukrainian army with tanks, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians with infantry training and cybersecurity, Italians with special operations and artillery training, and French with aircraft and submarines.

"Each country crafted its agreement according to its capabilities and priorities," says Krajev.

"More Psychological than Material Function"

However, security agreements have "more psychological than material function," says Jamie Shea from the Brussels-based Friends of Europe institute.

This former NATO official believes that the aid discussed in each agreement "has already been provided on a bilateral level," for instance, as part of the Czech initiative to supply Ukraine with 155 mm artillery shells, through the European Peace Facility, NATO channels, or as part of the US military and financial aid package of $60 billion.

"The agreements do not generate new aid for Ukraine; they just put on paper what has already been done," says Shea.

A Transitional Solution Until Ukraine's NATO Membership

"The agreements are signed to give Ukraine certain guarantees, but it would be wrong to call them security agreements, as none of them offer Ukraine anything similar to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty," Shea says to DW.

According to this expert, during Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the agreements represent a transitional solution until Ukraine's NATO membership, for which there is still no specific date. "President Zelensky now needs to show that Ukraine has support worldwide," emphasizes Shea.

Due to the difficult situation on the battlefield, long-term assistance is sought. "NATO does not want to specify a date for possible membership, but the agreements show that the West will not tire of helping Ukraine and that it provides certain guarantees, indicating long-term support," Shea says.

Petro Burkovski, head of the Ukrainian Ilko Kucheriv "Democratic Initiatives" Foundation, believes that the signed security agreements are a good basis for starting peace negotiations, which the warring parties will have to begin sooner or later.

"The agreements are based on the consensus of partners that they will not agree to the terms set by Russia in the event of a change of power," says Burkovski in a statement to DW.

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