On the eve of the NATO summit in Vilnius, US President Joe Biden said that today there is no common position among NATO member countries regarding Ukraine's entry into the North Atlantic Alliance and we need to prepare, carry out reforms, including in the field of democratization, and generally make a decision on this the issue is not easy in the midst of a war. At the same time, the owner of the Oval Office confirmed Washington's intention to continue providing military assistance to Kyiv and announced the possibility of concluding agreements in the field and security similar to those in force in relations between the United States and Israel. Ukraine was given to understand that following the results of the NATO summit in Vilnius, we probably will not receive from the member countries an answer to the question about the timing of joining the alliance, any special invitation, not to mention the specifics regarding the provision of a NATO Membership Action Plan to us.
Why ask for NATO membership during a war?
Most likely, clear terms and conditions for Ukraine's accession to NATO, preferably spelled out in a separate agreement signed by the member countries of the alliance, were needed by Bankova in order to deter Russia from further aggressive actions. Probably, the calculation was that, realizing the inevitability of Ukraine's entry into NATO, the Russian Federation would begin to look for ways out of the protracted war and in the future would avoid forceful provocations against our country. Hypothetically, Ukraine's accession to NATO in the coming months would mean for Russia the risk of being face-to-face in a direct armed confrontation with a high-tech and much more powerful opponent, in a fight with which she would not be able to win.
The state of war with Ukraine would mean for the Russian Federation the threat of war with NATO member countries, which, in the event of external aggression against one of the members of the organization, can provide him with all possible assistance. The worst dream of the Russian ruling regime is peace enforcement by the bombing of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Vladikavkaz and Rostov-on-Don in the best traditions of the military operations "Desert Storm" in 1991, "Desert Fox" in 1998 in Iraq or operation "Allied Force" in 1999 in Yugoslavia. Considering what a commotion a handful of mercenaries from Wagner PMCs have done on the territory of the Russian Federation, it is quite realistic to demoralize the Putin regime if NATO member countries entered the war on the side of Ukraine. However, such a scenario is certainly not included in the plans of our Western partners.
Ukraine is not in NATO plans
NATO will continue to make statements about "open doors" for Ukraine in the alliance without a specific content of its rhetoric. Over the past 15 years, the United States and its European partners have found various reasons to delay Ukraine's admission to NATO "until better times." At the Budapest summit in 2008, Ukraine was denied an Action Plan for NATO membership under the pretext of the presence of foreign troops in the person of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Crimea, the problem of corruption and non-compliance with NATO standards. In 2014-2022, Ukraine's accession to NATO was hampered by the armed conflict unleashed by Russia in the Donbas and problems with territorial integrity. After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, NATO does not want to be automatically drawn into a war with Russia if we join the organization.
By and large, all of the above is not an argument to kill Ukraine's accession to NATO in the bud. The problem of corruption and Soviet weapons did not prevent Romania and Bulgaria from joining NATO in 2004. Greece and Turkey were admitted to the North Atlantic Alliance in 1952 - countries with significant conflict potential and territorial claims to each other. Greek and Turkish military fought each other in 1974 in Cyprus. Well, problems with territorial integrity and frozen conflicts exist in the current member countries of the alliance, such as the UK (separatism in Northern Ireland and Scotland) or Spain (separatism in the Basque Country and Catalonia).
The West's approach to Russia is outdated
Most likely, Ukraine is still not in NATO and is unlikely to be there until the current ruling elites in America and Europe radically revise their policy towards Russia. Apparently, the moratorium on NATO membership of Ukraine and other post-Soviet republics, with the exception of the Baltic countries, are tacit agreements between the United States and Russia. Unfortunately, Western leaders, with the exception of the leadership of Great Britain, Poland and the Baltic countries, still cherish hopes for the normalization of relations with Russia, its democratization and a return to the model of peaceful coexistence laid down by the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Security and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO. This document even assumed a joint response to emergency situations and planning of peacekeeping operations by Moscow and Brussels.
The Biden administration does not want to aggravate relations with the Russian Federation to a conflict in the hot phase, fearing the formation of an anti-American military alliance between Moscow and Beijing, in which the Russians will play the role of a junior partner and transfer military technology to the Chinese and become their raw material base. Although, this has already happened, only in the format of the Moscow-Beijing-Tehran axis after Iran's recent entry into the SCO.
Some NATO member countries, like Hungary, do not benefit from an even greater cooling of relations between Russia and Europe if Ukraine joins NATO. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is critical of the current anti-Russian sanctions and is benefiting from cooperation with the Russian Federation in the field of natural gas supplies and cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. Perhaps the West is afraid of unpredictable actions of the Russian Federation in response to Ukraine's accession to NATO in the current circumstances and does not want to create a pretext for an escalation of the conflict.
Presumably, the Russian Federation may arrange provocations along the perimeter of NATO's eastern borders, ranging from the deployment of missile systems to shelling of border settlements of the Baltic countries and Finland, it may try to occupy the *Suwalki corridor on the border of Lithuania and Poland in order to provide land communication between the Kaliningrad region and Belarus, cutting off land transport communications of the Baltic countries with NATO allies *. Although, this is doubtful, given that the main resources are thrown to the Ukrainian front. Russia can use its submarines and arrange provocations off the coast of the United States. At least, such proposals have already been made by Russian scientists. In March 2023, Vladimir Prokhvatilov, senior researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation, proposed attacking the United States with hypersonic missiles fired from submarines.
The restraint of the West in relation to the Russian Federation is erroneous and fundamentally contrary to common sense. Now is the time to strike the Putin regime with a control shot, up to the physical destruction of the political and military leadership of Russia. NATO member countries should provide air support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which can significantly increase the chances and accelerate the liberation of the territory of Ukraine, the restoration of territorial integrity within the 1991 borders and a significant increase in the US authority in the world as a defender of democracy and a fighter against criminal regimes. In fact, entering the war against Russia on the side of Ukraine opens up a unique opportunity for NATO member countries to take control of the wealth that holds Russian subsoil and cut off China from its vast resource base. Putting Russia under his control,
When could Ukraine join NATO?
The “crazy 90s” were the right moment to raise the issue of joining NATO, when there were discussions in the West about how Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan could give up some of the USSR’s nuclear weapons that remained on the territory of the former Soviet republics at the time gaining independence. It would have been quite logical and rational in 1994 to demand that the United States and Great Britain grant NATO membership to Ukraine in exchange for renunciation of nuclear weapons.
The presence of nuclear weapons in a state is a guarantee that few people will want to attack it. If you want a nuclear-free Ukraine, then be kind enough to take us under your nuclear umbrella. Although the ballistic missile launch control centers were located in Russia, if necessary, we could bring haze on our eastern neighbor with the help of strategic bombers with nuclear warheads that we had.
Kyiv missed the opportunity to try to negotiate an equivalent exchange and thereby discourage Moscow from encroaching on the territorial integrity of our country. However, instead of NATO membership, we received the Budapest Memorandum with vague wording without specific security guarantees from Western partners, which did not save Ukraine from the military expansion of Russia, which signed this document.
Israeli scenario for Ukraine
It is no coincidence that Biden offered Ukraine, as an alternative to NATO membership, a model of US-Israeli relations. Indeed, America and Israel are developing enhanced security cooperation through the 1952 Joint Defense Agreement and Tel Aviv's status as a major non-NATO ally in 1987. Countries jointly develop weapons, conduct military exercises and other activities in the field of security and defense. For example, the Arrow missile defense system was developed by the Israelis jointly with the American company Boeing.
Each year, $3.8 billion is allocated to Israel's defense needs from the US budget, in addition to funds allocated for Israeli emergency services, economic assistance and loans. Since the founding of the State of Israel, the Americans have allocated $125 billion to support its defense capabilities. For comparison, in 2022 alone, the United States and its partners allocated $100 billion worth of weapons, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine.
However, the status of a US ally outside NATO did not become a 100% guarantee of security for Israel. The territory of the country is systematically subjected to rocket attacks by terrorist organizations Hamas, Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah from South Lebanon. The United States does not send its troops or aircraft to neutralize terrorist launchers and camps in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Apparently, the Biden administration admits that Ukraine will be restless for a long time, since Russia can continue to shell our cities using missiles and drones even if the Armed Forces of Ukraine manage to completely drive the Russian occupiers out of the country.
However, one must understand that sometimes membership in NATO, the presence of combat-ready armed forces and even nuclear weapons cannot guarantee the inviolability of the borders and the territorial integrity of the participating countries. Britain's NATO membership did not stop Argentina from attempting to annex the Falklands from the kingdom in 1983. To return the islands under its control, London had to conduct a military operation using the navy, aircraft and landing forces. The participation of Turkey and the Baltic States in the North Atlantic Alliance does not prevent the Russian Aerospace Forces from periodically violating their airspace. During one such provocation in November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber.
Author: Georgiy Kukhaleishvili, international political scientist, political expert of the Civil Diplomacy Foundation