The US embraces Finland’s move toward NATO accession. How about Ukraine?

WASHINGTON — As they embrace Finland and soon Sweden’s move to join NATO, it’s time for President Biden and his western allies to appoint President Vladimir, doubling the bet that Russia has made a huge strategic mistake over the past three months. V. Putin paid a heavy price. It is to withstand the expansion of the western alliance that he was trying to divide.

However, the decision leaves several important questions. Why not allow Ukraine, the flawed, corrupt but heroic democracy at the heart of the current conflict, to join in and respect the West’s promises of security?

And in expanding NATO to 32 member states, which soon will add hundreds of miles more to its borders with Russia, will the military alliance help ensure that Russia never again engages in malicious aggression? Or are we already cementing our split with an isolated and angry nuclear-armed adversary who is paranoid of the “siege” of the West?

The White House welcomed the announcement Thursday by Finnish leaders that they “must apply for NATO membership without delay,” and expects Swedish leaders to follow suit in the coming days. It is not surprising that Russia said it would take “retaliatory measures”, including a “military-technical” response, which many experts interpreted as a threat to deploying tactical nuclear weapons near the Russian-Finnish border.

For weeks, U.S. officials met quietly with Finnish and Swedish officials to plan ways to strengthen both countries’ security guarantees while applications for alliance membership were pending.

The argument for Biden and his entourage to let Finland and Sweden come in, but not Ukraine is pretty straightforward. The two Nordic countries are model democracies and modern armies, where the United States and other NATO countries regularly conduct exercises, track Russian submarines, protect submarine communications cables, and conduct air patrols across the Baltic Sea.

In short, they were NATO allies in every way, except officially. And the invasion of Ukraine put an end to almost all debate over whether it would be safer for the two countries to distance themselves from their alliance.

Finnish ambassador to the US, Mikko Hautala, appealed for support in the US Senate on Thursday, saying: “We have been in NATO for 30 years. We were able to join NATO in the early ’90s.” Of course for the sudden change of his country. He said he “didn’t change Russia’s behavior at all” so as not to provoke Putin.

In contrast, Ukraine was at the heart of the former Soviet Union, which Putin was trying to rebuild, at least in part. And although it changed the constitution three years ago to make NATO accession a national goal, corruption is so prevalent and democratic institutions so lacking that it was considered a possibility if not in the next few decades.

NATO’s major members, led by France and Germany, have made it clear that they oppose the inclusion of Ukraine. The view of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration is further strengthened in that if Ukraine is a full-fledged member state, the United States and 29 allies are directly engaged in a gunfight according to the treaty. An attack on one member is covered by the core promise of an attack on the whole.

Zelensky understands these dynamics, and a few weeks after the conflict broke out, he withdrew his claim that Ukraine should join NATO. At the end of March, a month after the Russian invasion, at a time when there was still some prospect of a diplomatic solution, he made it clear that he was ready to declare Ukraine “neutral” if the war were to end permanently. state.

“Security and neutrality, the non-nuclear state of our country – we are ready to go for it,” he told Russian reporters.

These remarks were comforting for Biden, where the first goal is to irreversibly get the Russians out of Ukraine, but the second goal is to avoid World War III.

That means avoiding direct clashes with Putin and avoiding actions that pose a risk of escalation that could quickly build a nuke. Ukraine’s accession to NATO will reinforce Putin’s claims that the former Soviet state is colluding with the West to destroy the Russian state, and it may only be a matter of time before a direct confrontation begins with all risks. .

Following this logic, Biden refused to send MIG fighters to Ukraine that could be used to bomb Moscow. He rejected no-fly zones over Ukraine because of the risk that American pilots could engage Russian pilots in dogfights.

But his once clear lines have faded more over the past few weeks.

As Russia’s military weakness and incompetence became apparent, Biden authorized the sending of Ukrainian heavy artillery to thwart Russia’s recent offensive in Donbass, as well as missiles and switchblade drones used to attack Russian tanks.

Angry was evident when the administration last week denounced reports that Ukraine had provided Ukraine with information that helped sink Putin’s naval pride, Moscow, and targeted a mobile Russian command and the Russian general sitting there. The revelations showed just how close Washington was to provoking Putin.

The question now is whether expanding NATO risks consolidating a new Cold War. This is a debate similar to the warnings about the dangers of NATO expansion during the Clinton administration. George F. Kennan, the architect of the post-World War II “deterrence” strategy to isolate the Soviet Union, called its expansion “the deadliest fallacy of overall American policy in the post-Cold War era.”

Last week, Anne-Marie Slotter, chief executive of the New America think tank, warned that “all parties involved should take a deep breath and slow down.”

“The threat of a Russian invasion of Finland or Sweden is remote,” she said. wrote in the Financial Times. “But joining them into a military alliance will re-and deepen the twentieth-century divisions in Europe in a way that prevents them from thinking much more boldly and bravely about how to achieve peace and prosperity in the 21st century.”

That’s a long-term concern. In the short term, NATO and US officials are concerned about how to ensure that Russia does not threaten Finland or Sweden before becoming an official member of the alliance. (This is based on the assumption that the current members of the alliance will not object. Many believe Putin will reject the applications of Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orban.) Only the United Kingdom is explicit on this matter and the United Kingdom signed a separate security agreement with two countries. The United States did not say what security guarantees it was willing to provide.

But it accuses Putin of invading neighbors, resulting in NATO expansion. White House press secretary Jen Psaki loosely quoted Finnish President Sauli Ninisto’s words, making it clear that Ukraine has forced Finns to think differently about security.

Ninisto said of Putin: “You caused this. “Look in the mirror.”

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