NATO’s annual summit has especially high stakes this year. As officials from North America and Europe gather in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius this week, the main question is what kind of reassurance they can offer Ukraine that it might eventually join the military alliance. It is a lively debate behind the scenes, with some diplomats arguing that it would be impossible to admit Ukraine while its war with Russia is ongoing. Admitting a member state with occupied territory, they say, would simply be too risky for the rest of NATO; the only responsible choice would be to defer the discussion until after the war ends.
But an answer to those worries has recently arrived in the form of a historical analogy: Postwar West Germany was admitted to NATO while the country was still divided and facing unresolved territorial issues, so why can’t Ukraine follow that precedent? The West German precedent is quietly being pushed by some European capitals and even accepted in some strategic circles in Ukraine as a possible way out of the country’s predicament.