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To end the war, to bring peace, NATO summit should welcome Ukraine, now

Ukraine NATO summit tank vilnius
Credit: Ukraine’s General Staff
To end the war, to bring peace, NATO summit should welcome Ukraine, now

The previous strategy has led to war; NATO must invite Ukraine to be a member at the upcoming summit in Vilnius, even while the battles still rage, says defense analyst Hans Petter Midttun

NATO membership is not solely in the interests of Ukraine. Firstly, Ukraine is fighting our war. While the war is often described as a Russian-Ukrainian war, it was always a broader confrontation between Russia and the West. Ukrainian efforts are being increasingly recognized as being aligned with European values, principles, and, not least, interests.

Secondly, it is in NATO and the EU’s interest to ensure a Ukrainian victory (in contrast to the commitment to “support Ukraine as long as it takes”). The consequence of a Ukrainian defeat would be devastating to European security. Equally important, without Ukraine, there is no European security. The Alliance will not be able to defend the security and stability of its member states without Ukraine.

As some speakers argue, Ukrainian membership will strengthen Europe’s security and defense autonomy at a time when US attention is increasingly focusing on the Pacific theatre. Gen Michel Yakovleff also argued that Europe would inevitably face “20 years of chaos” because of Russian failure. Ukraine will play a crucial role in countering the challenges this entails for European security and stability.

Thirdly, Ukrainian NATO membership will help end the war. Instead of discussing the potential problems of accepting a country at war, the member states should address how the accession will help change the military balance and force Russia to withdraw. Accepting Ukraine into a defensive military alliance is not an act of escalation or war: It would be an act of diplomacy, forcing Russia to consider the consequences of continuing a war that – at the date of Ukrainian accession to NATO – would trigger Article 5 and collective defense.

I argued that the West has not changed its strategy since 2014. It only does more of what it already did before 24 February. The coalition only changed the scale and scope of sanctions and its defense, financial and humanitarian aid, not the overall “strategy” (or rather the broad understanding of how to proceed).

Ukraine’s international partners still lack a commonly agreed aim and objective and, therefore, a unified strategy. The regular declarations of “support of Ukraine as long as it takes” underline the point. It is intentionally vague and non-committal and in great contrast to a declaration stating that we want Ukraine to win.  The ambiguity is further reinforced by the West’s feeble response to Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka dam. It is the largest environmental catastrophe in Ukraine since Chornobyl. The lack of response encourages Russia to continue to escalate. Russia is allegedly already preparing even further horrendous acts with global consequences (e.g., the mining of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and Crimean Titan plant). It is already waging war among Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.

The present ”strategy” has turned peace into conflict and a full-scale war.

NATO keeps military power off the table despite its commitment to intervene in its late strategic concept. The West is still governed by fear – being afraid of a broader confrontation (it is already a part of), a possible escalation (that has been ongoing since 2014) and nuclear blackmail (that NATO by no means can afford to give in to as it would confirm that Putin’s nuclear fait accompli strategy works and, therefore, increases the risk of escalation). The US and some Europe countries still seek negotiations (somewhere down the road) and, therefore, appeasement.

The present ”strategy” does not work. It has turned peace into conflict and a full-scale war. The war has continued to escalate since 24 February 2022.

NATO must invite Ukraine to join Alliance in Vilnius: 75 Ukrainian NGOs appeal to NATO leaders

The West, therefore, desperately needs a new strategy. Offering Ukraine a NATO membership at the Vilnius summit – effective from 1 August – would allow Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine (or face a war with a collective West). It would offer President Putin an off-ramp and an opportunity to present himself as the statesman that de-escalated and averted a “WW3”.

A Ukrainian NATO membership accession could end the war without a single shot being fired by a coalition of the willing.

I will leave it to the victims of Russian hybrid war – and its long-term effort to manipulate the cognitive space of key policy and decision-makers – to explain why Russia would choose to fight 31+1 countries, when it struggles to defeat one. I will let them explain why an aggressor that has done its uttermost to avoid the West becoming a part of the war in Ukraine, suddenly would decide to wage war with the West. Additionally, I am looking forward to their explanation as to why a nuclear war would be in the interest of Russia in a situation that does not threaten its existence.

The West has the means to end the war but has refused to use them. In the words of Hanne Hopko (ANTS Network, Head of Democracy in Action Conference; ex-MP/Head of the Ukrainian Committee on Foreign Affairs (2014-2019):

Crime of inaction is worse than crimes of aggression. When you know you can help and save lives but don’t do this … or deliberately delay with decisions … this is how evil prevails.”

I fully agree. Inaction is also an action.

You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.” (Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlain; copied by Hans Petter Midttun to NATO Heads of States)

Ukrainian NATO membership is in Europe’s interest. It is, therefore, also in the interest of the USA. It is high time NATO acted accordingly.

It is time to face our fears and solve a war that would have never happened if the West had demonstrated resolve and invested in security and defense during the last three decades (one of which includes the ongoing war).

This speech was made at the international conference, “Ukraine and NATO on the eve of the Vilnius Summit: From Support via Victory to Membership,” organized by GLOBSEC.


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