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The “Israeli model” is no solution for either Ukraine or Europe

Only NATO membership can offer real security guarantees for Ukraine and peace and stability for Europe
Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers. Credit: Ukraine’s General Staff
The “Israeli model” is no solution for either Ukraine or Europe

Ukraine is seeking NATO membership. It does not see any other security arrangements that will provide the security guarantees needed to deter future Russian aggression.

The Alliance fully supports Ukraine’s right to choose its own security arrangements and has stated that Ukraine’s future is in NATO. Several NATO members are, however, resisting its NATO accession. Publicly, the member countries have agreed to the stand that Ukraine cannot become a NATO member while at war. Some are concerned that a membership today would drag the Alliance into a full-scale war with Russia.

Recognizing that NATO membership will not be forthcoming as long as Russia is waging war – irrespective of it being a low-intensity or full-scale war – Ukraine is presently seeking alternative security guarantees until “Allies agree and conditions are met.”

It is not its primary choice, but one made from a lack of other alternatives.

The US opposes membership while Ukraine is at war.

Biden says war with Russia must end before NATO can consider membership for Ukraine, stressing the risk of being dragged into the war. He has, however, also stressed that there will be no US boots on the ground; no supplying weapons to attack Russian territory; and that the US will avoid giving Putin grounds for nuclear escalation.

Putin’s increasingly explicit nuclear saber-rattling means that the White House spends much time discussing what might or might not cross Russia’s red line. This includes the delivery of HIMARS, tanks, drones, F-16, long-range strike capacities, and not least, NATO membership. Russia has long established Ukrainian NATO membership as a red line.

The problem with the red line – Ukraine’s NATO membership – is that it is not directly linked to the war. It was stated before the full-scale war and will still be an official Russian red line when peace has been restored. It is in a sense, a permanent “veto.”

Whatever the outcome of the war, Russia will remain the world’s biggest nuclear power. If the US believes that Ukrainian accession into the Alliance will trigger a military confrontation with Russia, it will never allow Ukraine to become a NATO member.

This will, however, undermine European security for decades to come.

European security will forever be linked to Ukraine. There will be no European security without a complete, independent, and sovereign Ukraine. More importantly, there will be no peace in Ukraine – and therefore, Europe – without security guarantees deterring future Russian aggressions.

Russia is an imperial power. It has expanded continuously for centuries at the cost of its neighbors. Even as the Soviet Union was being dissolved, Russia set about re-establishing its control over the post-Soviet space. Its recent calls for a sphere of influence and the right to veto the decisions of independent and sovereign countries are only a continuation of its past and present nature. It will continue to expand until stopped and contained.

The Russian Federation Russia is seeking strategic parity with the US. Ukraine is only a small – but crucial – object in its strategy to achieve Great Power status. Ukraine unlocks the economic, technological, demographical, and geostrategic preconditions to establish the power needed to exercise its influence on the European continent.

Russia cannot succeed without Ukraine and will, consequently, never give up its ambitions to control it. It might accept a respite in the war, but it is bound to be temporary.

Most would agree that there are no alternatives to NATO and its collective defense. Still, the US is deliberating just that.

The excellent article “Jake Sullivan’s Trial by Combat” by Susan B. Glasser, refers several times to the “Israeli model”. It is described as “long-term security guarantees and military assistance akin to what the US has provided to Israel since the nineteen-eighties.”

The arrangement with Israel has been codified and sustained going back to the Reagan Administration by a series of formal memorandums of understanding, which commit the US to providing a certain amount of military aid and weapons over a ten-year period in order to give Israel a “qualitative military edge” in the region. Unlike NATO’s Article 5 commitment, which states that an attack on any one member is an attack on all, there has been no explicit pledge obliging the US to fight on Israel’s behalf if it is attacked.”

She is not the only one suggesting the model as a way out of the dilemma of deterring future Russian aggressions without crossing Russia’s red lines and triggering a military confrontation.

For the sake of European stability, NATO needs to intervene in Ukraine: Opinion

While the US has stressed that an “Israeli model” would not serve as a substitute for NATO, they have yet to indicate when Ukraine will become a member. The reason? It cannot become a member as long as the US fears a military confrontation with Russia.

It demonstrates strategic deliberations fraught with faulty thinking.

Firstly, the model itself does not fit the strategic environment in Europe. In contrast to Ukraine, Israel is facing a threat from Middle East countries that are militarily inferior. None of them possess nuclear arms. The Russian Federation is in contrast, the world’s biggest nuclear power. Consequently, while the US does not restrain itself from using military power against perceived threats in the Middle East, it fears a military confrontation with Russia. Additionally, Israel has something Ukraine gave up in 2014 for a promise of US and UK “security guarantees”: Nuclear Deterrence.

Secondly, the notion that Ukraine might achieve a “qualitative military edge” in the region is utterly unrealistic. Ukraine will never be able to source the Armed Forces needed to deter future aggressions. Russia’s resource base is massive. It can mobilise resources far beyond Ukraine’s abilities. More importantly, the US will never allow Ukraine nuclear weapons, the only means capable of deterring a Nuclear Power. As long as the actions of the West – its fear over a nuclear confrontation– verify the validity of the Russian nuclear “fait accompli” strategy, Russia will uphold its efforts until Western resources or willingness to support Ukraine is exhausted.

The only solution that offers a “qualitative military edge” is NATO. Maybe. Presently, even the Alliance has shown itself unable to deter Russian aggression.

Thirdly – and directly linked to the last observation – Jake Sullivan is discussing American interests. That’s his job. US national interests are, however, also connected to NATO and its European allies and partners.

Our alliances and partnerships around the world are our most important strategic asset and an indispensable element contributing to international peace and stability. A strong and unified NATO, our alliances in the Indo-Pacific, and our traditional security partnerships elsewhere do not only deter aggression; they provide a platform for mutually beneficial cooperation that strengthens the international order.” (US Security Strategy)

Any policy decisions that will undermine the security of its allies will reduce its ability to contribute to peace and stability.

Russia’s confrontation with the West and its full-scale war on Ukrainian territory threatens European security. 

Ukrainian NATO membership is the only diplomatic action that might force Russia to withdraw and end the war.

The “Israeli model” does not have any comparable effects. For the reasons mentioned above, it will not deter Russian aggression. It will not force Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and end the war. It will not least, fail to re-establish European security.

NATO – under US leadership – has walked away from Crisis Management – one of its three core tasks – out of fear of a military confrontation with the enemy it is meant to deter.

Lastly, and most importantly, while Ukrainian NATO membership is a Russian (hollow) red line, many fail to understand its full implications. It is not the NATO membership itself. Any actions or decisions that prevent Russia from achieving control over Ukraine is a “red line”. The “Israel model” – if it would work, which it will not – would also be a no-go.

Russia’s “ultimate” red line is as hollow as the first ten

Russia intends to integrate Ukraine into the Russian Federation. It means to eradicate Ukraine as both a nation and a sovereign country.

Unless this is acknowledged, its discussions on Ukrainian security guarantees and European security are futile.

There’s a real tendency to paralysis by analysis, Eric Edelman, a former Under-Secretary of Defense in the Bush Administration, said. Jake likes to look at every facet of a problem and wants to understand everything. That’s the tragedy of government—you have to make decisions behind a veil of irreducible ignorance.”

The US has clearly stated what it will not do. No US boots on the ground; no supplying weapons to attack Russian territory; and avoid giving Putin grounds for nuclear escalation. It has also stressed that Ukraine will not become a NATO member while at war, giving Russia every reason to uphold its war of aggression.

The Biden administration has, however, failed to establish a level of ambition, a strategy, and an end state that will stop an imperialistic, aggressive, Global Power wannabe out of fear.

A security guarantee based on the so-called “Israel model” is not a commitment to peace. It is an excuse to avoid committing.

Until he does, his generals cannot develop a strategy that ensures a Western and Ukrainian victory, and a Russian defeat. A draw is not an option.


Hans Petter Midttun is educated at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, the Norwegian National Defence Command and Staff College and the Norwegian Defense College, as well as education from the Federal Defence Forces of Germany. He has broad international experience from both operations and postings abroad (NATO, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Ukraine). The service includes seven years in command of frigates and six NATO deployments. Midttun put into operation, tested and verified the operational capabilities of one of the newest frigates in the Norwegian Navy. He served at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) before being posted to Ukraine as the Norwegian Defence Attache (2014-2018). Based on previous experiences, Midttun is presently publishing articles and analytic works on the security situation in and around Ukraine as a private person.


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