Putin has drawn Nato into a trap (2024)

Kyiv has been told that, before it can join Nato, it must fix its problems with corruption. These are very real: the latest Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Ukraine below Belarus and Kazakhstan. But that is not the true reason why there will be no good news on accession for Zelensky at Nato’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington next week.

The simple reality is that very few in Nato wants to let Ukraine in, despite endless platitudes including a declaration by the North Atlantic Council at Vilnius last year that “Ukraine’s future is in Nato”. There has been discussion about taking that further at the July summit, but Joe Biden vehemently opposes anything more than the meaningless formulation of “a well-lit bridge” to Nato membership. The best he is willing to do is sweeten the pill with a 10-year bilateral defence pact that changes very little and, tellingly, is cancellable with six months’ notice.

We have seen Sweden and Finland become Natomembers in the blink of an eye and with no need for any kind of a bridge. That won’t happen for Ukraine. With Putin’s battles raging, all of the member states know that they would effectively be at war with Russia from the moment of Ukrainian accession.

Zelensky has been pressing for a solid guarantee of Natomembership “after the war”. But when will that be? Putin is not going to withdraw his forces, and without a surge of Western military support at a scale not so far contemplated by the West, Ukraine will not be able to push them out. That leaves an endless war or a frozen conflict at best. Whether the latter results from a negotiated settlement or battlefield paralysis, it will certainly re-ignite while Putin or anyone like him occupies the Kremlin. Well aware of that harsh reality, which Natoleader is going to sign up his country’s young men and women to fight against Russia at an unknown point in the future and potentially within his own electoral cycle?

Putin has drawn us into a trap which damns Natoif it accepts Ukraine and damns it if it doesn’t. According to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “Natois the most powerful and successful alliancein history”. But it’s overriding purpose is deterrence and despite all of its economic and military power, far greater than Moscow’s, it failed to deter Russia. Putin understood that application of strength is entirely dependent on moral and political will. His perception of the West’s weakness in those areas was amplified by Biden’s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan just months before he invaded, not to mention appeasem*nt of Iranian aggression since the start of his presidency.

Putin’s war compelled the West to respond by providing unprecedented military, economic and diplomatic support as well as undertakings by Natoand its members to stand beside Ukraine for as long as it takes. That created the appearance of a cast iron bond with Kyiv, effectively an alliance. But at the same time Putin’s calculated threats of escalation deterred the US and the rest of Natofrom going far enough to enable their ally’s victory.

There will be celebrations at the Natosummit about how the war has strengthened Nato, with its two new members and supposed increases in defence spending, but they will fall flat because the opposite is true. If Ukraine does not achieve victory because the alliance has failed to supply what is needed to defend a friendly neighbouring democracy then it will be another defeat for NATO. And if it is unwilling to have Ukraine as a member for fear of being drawn into direct conflict with Russia, then how likely is it that American, French, German or British leaders will be willing to send their sons and daughters to fight and die for the sovereignty of Poland or the Baltic States, even though they are Natomembers?

Putin is not going to curb his imperialist ambitions in Europe, and nor will Xi Jinping in Asia or Ali Khamanei in the Middle East. To deter and, if necessary, confront these despots we need an alliance of democracies who don’t just have military power but also the real and perceived will to use it. Natoleaders would be well advised to take time at their summit to contemplate that dilemma and how their refusal to have Ukraine as a member impacts on the alliance’s credibility.

Putin has drawn Nato into a trap (2024)


Putin has drawn Nato into a trap? ›

Kyiv has been told that, before it can join Nato, it must fix its problems with corruption. These are very real: the latest Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Ukraine below Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Is Ukraine backed by NATO? ›

Ukraine is not a NATO member. Ukraine is a NATO partner country, which means that it cooperates closely with NATO but it is not covered by the security guarantee in the Alliance's founding treaty.

Why is Russia at war with Ukraine? ›

The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2014. Following Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity, Russia occupied and annexed Crimea from Ukraine and supported pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian military in the Donbas war.

Is Poland in NATO? ›

Nato has 32 members across Europe and North America, including the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey. After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, many Eastern European countries joined: Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

What agreement was signed between Russia and NATO? ›

By signing the NATO-Russia Founding Act, Russia pledged not to threaten or use force against NATO Allies and any other state. It has broken this commitment, with the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, the territory of a sovereign state.

Is Japan part of NATO? ›

NATO has a number of “partners across the globe” or “global partners”, which the Alliance cooperates with on an individual basis. NATO's global partners include Afghanistan¹, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

Why is Ukraine important to the United States? ›

U.S.-Ukraine Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with Ukraine in 1991, following its independence from the Soviet Union. The United States attaches great importance to the success of Ukraine's transition to a modern democratic state with a flourishing market economy.

Why did Russia sell Alaska? ›

Defeat in the Crimean War further reduced Russian interest in this region. Russia offered to sell Alaska to the United States in 1859, believing the United States would off-set the designs of Russia's greatest rival in the Pacific, Great Britain.

What is Russia's reason for invading Ukraine? ›

Putin said the operation was to "protect the people" of the Russian-controlled breakaway republics. He falsely claimed that they had "been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime."

What language is spoken in Ukraine? ›

The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, a Slavic language, which is spoken regularly by 88% of Ukraine's population at home in their personal life, and as high as 87% at work or study. It is followed by Russian which is spoken by 34% in their personal life.

Is Mexico in NATO? ›

Mexico is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); however, this does not mean that it does not have allies in times of trouble. One example of an ally is the United States.

Who will join NATO next? ›

Following the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO in 2023 and 2024 respectively, there have been renewed debates on Austria joining the bloc, similar to how Austria joined the EU alongside Finland and Sweden.

Is Israel part of NATO? ›

Israel, being located in the Levant, is outside the geographical scope of the alliance. While it has had close security cooperation with the US and other Western countries, Israel has not sought formal membership in defense alliances like NATO. Turkey, a neighbor of Israel, on the other hand, joined NATO in 1952.

Who would win between NATO and Russia? ›

Russia's capability

It has 1.33 million active military personnel, according to Statista, but only about 4,182 military aircraft compared with Nato's combined 20,633, and 598 military ships compared to Nato's 2,151. "Russia's ground combat vehicle capacity is more competitive," said Statista.

Did France leave NATO? ›

Did you know that France hosted NATO for 15 years? And that although it withdrew from NATO's military structure in 1966, it remained an Ally? What was President de Gaulle's rationale?

Why did Russia not want Ukraine to join NATO? ›

While public support for NATO membership has risen in Ukraine since 2014, the prospect continues to face opposition from Russia, which sees Ukraine's potential NATO accession as a security threat.

Does the US have a defense treaty with Ukraine? ›

The security-related commitments in this Agreement are intended to support Ukraine's efforts to win today's war and deter future Russian military aggression. It is the policy of the United States to assist Ukraine in maintaining a credible defense and deterrence capability.

Is Ukraine a member of the United Nations? ›

Ukraine was among the first countries that signed the United Nations Charter, becoming a founding member of the United Nations among 51 countries, being the only Soviet Socialist Republic to do so alongside the Byelorussian SSR.

How big is the NATO army? ›

How Big is The NATO Army? The total number of troops and personnel in the armed forces of all NATO nations is around 3.5 million.

Who is in NATO in 2024? ›

NATO further expanded after the Cold War, adding the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (1999); Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (2004); Albania and Croatia (2009); Montenegro (2017); North Macedonia (2020); Finland (2023); and Sweden (2024).

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