Why Ukraine can’t join NATO

by Matthew Mai

Two developments this month have underscored the perilous nature of Ukraine’s geopolitical position and why joining NATO would be a poor remedy.

First, the Biden administration struck a deal with Germany over the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. It’s an energy project often described by Eastern Europeans as a threat to their security. Instead of imposing sanctions on the firms working on the nearly finished pipeline, the administration sought commitments from Berlin that it would invest in Ukrainian energy infrastructure and provide diplomatic support to the Three Seas Initiative, a geopolitical forum of 12 Central and Eastern European countries located on the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black seas.

The second development was the publication of an essay by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” As the title suggests, Putin discusses at length his view on the historical, cultural, religious, and linguistic ties between Russia and Ukraine, particularly in the eastern region of Donbas. Putin asserts that Ukraine “simply does not need Donbas” while maintaining that the “true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia” as “one people.” Russia will engage Ukraine only if it “is not a tool in someone else’s hands to fight against us.” However, Putin also repeats a previous warning that any Western designs on Ukraine would force Russia to destroy the country.

For American policymakers, these two developments should validate any doubts that attempting to incorporate Ukraine into Western political and security institutions, particularly NATO, would be a dangerous and counterproductive initiative with no chance for peaceful implementation.

Keeping the door open for Ukraine to join NATO courts war with Russia. I would contend that Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and instigation of the separatist insurgency in Donbas were a reaction to a U.S.- and European-supported revolution that overthrew the pro-Russian government in favor of one determined to move closer to the West. Moscow viewed this development as a direct threat to its security. Crimea, for example, hosts a base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the upgrades of which in recent years have tipped the balance of power in Russia’s favor against the NATO navies of Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. A pro-Western government in Kyiv could have blocked the use of the base in Sevastopol or, worse, hosted NATO naval forces and thereby denied Russia a conventional military presence. This is a region where Russia has 400 kilometers of exposed coastline and maintains critical shipping lanes to the Caucasus.

Similarly, the presence of American and NATO military assets on Russia’s vulnerable eastern border would likely be unacceptable to any Russian leader. Ukraine carries special significance given that Charles XII, the kaiser, and Adolf Hitler all used it to launch large-scale offensives into Russia. While the status quo remains unacceptable to Russia’s security interests, holding out the prospect of NATO membership doesn’t do Ukraine any favors either. Efforts to bring Ukraine into the Western fold will only prevent reconciliation with the separatists in Donbas and permanently compromise Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The United States should permanently halt moves toward NATO expansion. U.S. policy should be revised to reflect the more realistic calculation that Ukraine will be better off as a neutral state between Russia and the West. As the Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal shows, wealthy Western European countries are unwilling to subordinate their interests to compensate for Ukraine’s compromised position. If European NATO allies don’t consider the fate of Ukraine essential for their security, why should the U.S. risk war with Russia over it?

Matthew Mai is a rising senior at Rutgers University and an intern at Defense Priorities. Previously, he was a fall 2020 Marcellus policy fellow with the John Quincy Adams Society.

(c) Washington Examiner

17 comments

  1. “Ukraine carries special significance given that Charles XII, the kaiser, and Adolf Hitler all used it to launch large-scale offensives into Russia.”

    This Russian lover certainly failed in history and geography too.

    Hitler didn’t attack Russia, he attacked the Soviet Union, by first destroying Ukraine, Russia destroyed what was left. As for Charles XII. This Wiki excerpt shows who attacked who first. Never mind that there was no country called Ukraine at the time, it was the Russian empire.

    “In 1700, a triple alliance of Denmark–Norway, Saxony–Poland–Lithuania and Russia launched a threefold attack on the Swedish protectorate of Holstein-Gottorp and provinces of Livonia and Ingria, aiming to draw advantage as the Swedish Empire was unaligned and ruled by a young and inexperienced king, thus initiating the Great Northern War. Leading the Swedish army against the alliance Charles won multiple victories despite being usually significantly outnumbered. A major victory over a Russian army some three times the size in 1700 at the Battle of Narva compelled Peter the Great to sue for peace, an offer which Charles subsequently rejected.”

    Last but not least. The Kaiser never invaded Russia at all. In August 1914, Russia invaded East Prussia going through Ukraine and Poland.

    I think the author needs another occupation, or he needs to stop reading Russian propaganda.

    • It would be interesting to know what the affiliations of this maggot are. I would guess on the far left of the Dems, but I could be wrong.

        • Pure kremlin propaganda disguised as an academic study. I had forgot that the Examiner is on the right. Perhaps this is another example of the Trump wing of the GOP finding common ground with the left wing of the Dems. Another good example of this is the collaboration between Russian agent Tulsi Gabbard and the evil putler shill Tucker Carlson.
          Gabbard is one of those figures in western politics and journalism that are talked about on domestic Russian TV as friends of Russia. Others include RaT employees Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage, George Galloway, Max Keiser, Julian Assange, JeremIRA CorbLenin, plus Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Seumas Milne etc.

          • The clincher is when he says the US should retreat from Europe, and let them take care of their own security. The presence of the US in Europe for the last 75 years is what kept the peace, not the bunch of lily livered Europeans, the UK excepted.

    • The moron also mentioned this: “Similarly, the presence of American and NATO military assets on Russia’s vulnerable eastern border…”
      What borders mafia land in the east? That’s right, the Pacific Ocean.

          • It’s hard to find any point to him whatsoever. I was going to comment on this article, but you have to be a member on the Examiner. It would have been deleted immediately anyway. 😉

            • Examiner ended comments on their articles several years ago. They got tired of having their articles cut to pieces.

            • Alas, it’s like that in many sites. But, the worst ones regarding censuring are kraut sites. They don’t like comments that reflect the world outside of their pink and purple leftist-liberal soap bubble.

    • Yeah. This is his one and only contribution to the Washington Examiner. They must be struggling if they publish BS like this without checking it first.

      • The Washington Examiner is sinking into the swamp that has other trashy chunks floating in it, such as the National Enquirer, Star, The Globe, and National Examiner.

        • Besides the Atlantic Council, I can’t think of too many good media sites in the US. They are either full on Putin worshippers, or extreme left wing.

  2. “Two developments this month have underscored the perilous nature of Ukraine’s geopolitical position and why joining NATO would be a poor remedy.”
    The true reason why membership is a poor remedy is that the organization has too many gutless cowards and appeasers in its ranks. Such a club is not worth very much when the time comes to FIGHT and hardly anyone wants to.

    “First, the Biden administration struck a deal with Germany over the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. It’s an energy project often described by Eastern Europeans as a threat to their security. Instead of imposing sanctions on the firms working on the nearly finished pipeline, the administration sought commitments from Berlin that it would invest in Ukrainian energy infrastructure and provide diplomatic support to the Three Seas Initiative, a geopolitical forum of 12 Central and Eastern European countries located on the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black seas.”
    It’s a useless deal. Why? Because it will end as the worthless Budapest Memorandum did … if it will even get started. There are no provisions to punish Germanystan if this fag country won’t honor the deal.

  3. Realistically, Ukraine joining NATO would not get much. From a geographical standpoint, Ukraine can not be supported by NATO in a meaningful way. The country is simply too far out on a limb. Georgia is in a worse position. Ukraine can make herself indigestible, and the west could support her, although logistical help will be difficult. Stockpiling weapons and material should be done while it can still be done. Erecting a solid air defense system is a must, along with anti-artillery radars.

    Alas, what needs to be done, is not being done. Russia has an appointment on the mountains of Israel which she is unlikely to survive, but the timing of that, while soon, is not known.

What is your opinion?