By Lesia Dubenko.
Published April 14 at 2:27 am
With neutral Sweden and Finland inching closer to filing a NATO membership bid to avoid the fate of Ukraine, it is time for Kyiv to send a clear message to the West: We are not sacrificing our lives for your security.
The ongoing bloodshed in Ukraine and Russia’s blatant violation of all rules of war and international conventions possible is the 21st century’s biggest European tragedy. Even more so since it could have been avoided had, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rightly said, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel had not obstructed Kyiv’s accession to the Alliance in 2008.
Fourteen years later, little suggests that both Merkel and NATO are showing any signs of wanting to make up for that mistake. The Alliance is continuously refusing to introduce a no-fly zone, supply Ukraine with all the necessary weapons to reduce Russia’s military superiority or intervene in any meaningful way other than spewing out warnings and condemnations of Russia’s flagrant war crimes.
In fact, NATO is doing its best to stay away from the conflict, providing limited help and balancing between cowardliness and cold-blooded calculations of its own interests and preferences.
It is also showing that its underlying open-door policy only applies to those countries that its member states view positively, such as Sweden and Finland. Unlike Ukraine, the two Nordic states are cordially welcome in it, with NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently promising to expedite Sweden’s and Finland’s potential membership bid without providing any positive signal to struggling Ukraine.
While Stoltenberg’s desire to protect the Alliance’s favorites is great news for Helsinki and Stockholm, the mere notion of Ukrainians paying with their lives for the security of NATO and the Nordics is both unacceptable and outright humiliating to both Ukrainian civilians and soldiers fighting in besieged cities like Mariupol.
More so since Russia uses the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine argument as an excuse to review the decade-long policy of what it considers to be an act of geopolitical debasement, i.e. NATO’s eastern enlargement, Western liberal ideology, and other types of “anti-Russian” sentiment among its neighbors who are willing to defend themselves from Moscow’s perennial military appetites.
By attacking Ukraine, a non-NATO member state that it considered, albeit mistakenly, to be easy prey, Moscow is not just trying to reverse time, but also show that it can dictate other states’ foreign policy while exposing the Alliance’s unpreparedness to stand up for its own values and obstruct Moscow’s nuclear blackmail.
To the Kremlin’s joy, it is succeeding in doing both as NATO has distanced itself from the aggression in Ukraine, claiming that it is not a party to the war – a manipulative move given that Russia’s ultimatums were addressed to it and the U.S., not Ukraine, which is now paying the ultimate price for the west-east standoff.
The situation looks even more disturbing as NATO seems to have drawn no lessons from the 1990s when it tolerated genocide in Srebrenica eventually taking a contentious decision to bomb Belgrade in 1999 to preclude it from carrying out ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Although Russia is likewise committing, and openly propagating, genocide in Ukraine, killing, executing, and raping civilians, including children, and burying them in mass graves, NATO lacks the backbone to take a strong stance and avoid the mistakes of the recent past in favor of its own security.
Instead, it continues to bet on sanctions and promises to send extra troops to NATO’s eastern flank, including the Baltic states, neither of which is sufficient to stop Russia, which continues to receive millions of dollars from many Alliances’ member states, including Germany, Hungary, and others. This money is then used to send more troops and equipment to Ukraine to destroy its cities and kill its people.
The Russian public’s support of the war in Ukraine and its undisguised desire to attack other countries, especially those that were once Soviet satellites, only encourages Moscow’s growing war mood.
Russian officials are already threatening both Sweden and Finland if they go ahead with their plans to join NATO, with the Alliance producing no response worthy of heeding by the power-hungry Kremlin. Either because of cowardliness, readiness to give a real military response to protect its preferred accession candidates; or belief that Ukraine’s army will manage to weaken the enemy, enabling NATO to avoid the Russian threat and welcome favorable candidates in order not to let Moscow make a mockery of its open-door policy.
Indeed, unlike eternally reforming Ukraine, Finland and Sweden are both EU member states with transparent and robust economies, which matters for NATO a great deal.
However, it does not make them worthier accession candidates than Kyiv, which is paying with human lives for the peace of all European countries daily – a far greater price than any economic or other indicators.
And NATO has to take notice of that without delay.