NATO should invite Ukraine to join at next year’s summit, says former commanding general of United States Army Europe


Peace, Security & Defence

“How is the Ukrainian counteroffensive going? Call up and ask the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet. He just lost a submarine to a country that does not even have a navy.” It was with this provocative comment that Ben Hodges, former commanding general of United States Army Europe, opened Friends of Europe’s instant briefing on Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Hodges, who is also a retired lieutenant general, was referring to the missile attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Friday morning that allegedly killed 34 Russian officers, including the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, according to Ukraine. Hodges described Russia’s situation as “pretty grim”, not only due to last Friday’s attack but because “Ukrainians have 54 nations supporting them”. He wondered: “President Putin had to go 11 time zones to meet [North Korea’s President] Kim Jong Un to ask for artillery. How bad is it in Russia for him to have to do that?

Speaking to the critics of the Ukrainian counteroffensive’s “slow progress”, the former commanding general reminded that, one year ago, the soldiers who are now fighting for their country were farmers and truck drivers. “It’s incredible what they are doing,” Hodges claimed. Addressing the topic of the so-called Western fatigue, Hodges pointed out that “not one single American, German, Polish or French soldier is in the fight for Ukraine.” He questioned: “How can one of us be fatigued?”

As a final remark, Hodges said that NATO should invite Ukraine to join the alliance and that this should come at next year’s summit in Washington. However, as the former commanding general remarked, “as Finland and Sweden know, invitation does not equal accession, but it would send a strong signal to Putin that he is losing.”

Henri Schricke, Director of the Institut des hautes études de défense nationale (IHEDN), laid out three criteria that should be met by the end of this year for what he considers to be a reasonably successful counteroffensive. First, Kyiv and Odessa must be clear of danger. Second, marginal territorial gains must be secured in order to limit or endanger Russia’s support lines and logistic support. Finally, the capacity of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to target Ukraine must be minimised.  

Schricke, who is also a retired vice admiral of the French Navy, noted Europe’s financial commitment of 70bn so far, of which 21bn are allocated to military support. “This is huge at European scale,” the IHEDM Director pointed out. However, he questioned what will happen after next year’s European elections, urging for a long-term plan. “There is an urgent need to agree on political objectives well beyond the next elections.

Maria Snegovaya, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, lamented the lack of long-term solutions from Western governments: “There is just not enough What is missing is a long-term vision from Western allies on sustained support for Ukraine and what it means for Ukraine to win.”

On sanctions, Snegovaya acknowledged their efficacy when they are first introduced but warned that, after a while, Russians find a way to circumvent sanctions. As an example, she pointed out oil that Russia is “able to sell far above the price cap […] Russia is circumventing sanctions left and right. We don’t seem to be able to close the loopholes.

Related activities

view all
view all
view all
Track title


Stop playback
Video title


Africa initiative logo