NATO’s Hairline Fissures Part 1: Ukraine Membership?

[This is the first in a two-part series about a pair of divisive issues within NATO regarding Ukraine.]

In response to an earlier instance of Russian aggression, in his July 25, 1961, “Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis,” President John F. Kennedy warned: “If there is one path above all others to war, it is the path of weakness and disunity.”

Today, it is a warning that must not go unheeded by NATO, as the alliance sees hairline cracks within its unity over how to defend Ukraine, and the Russian aggressor threatens to widen the war beyond its current boundaries and conventional weaponry.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded after World War II to defend the United States and our Western European allies against Soviet aggression and prospective invasion. After the fall of the communist regime, NATO spent the next three decades or so expanding its membership ranks into Eastern Europe, combating terrorism, and engaging in an existential search for a new role in defending the free world.

Yet, Russian revanchism has never rendered NATO’s primary purpose antiquated. Under Mr. Putin’s direction, Russia has invaded Georgia, Crimea, and now Ukraine—all in what the Russian Vozhd has designated his nation’s “near abroad.” Such Russian aggressions and further territorial ambitions have had a roborant effect upon NATO, refocusing it upon its original and never-discarded mission of defending its members from the self-perceived once-and-future eastern imperial empire.

As for the Russian perspective, be it during the Soviet Union or the present Russian Federation, NATO has always remained the primary and immediate obstacle to its expansionist aims. It is no exaggeration to assert that if Mr. Putin could accomplish one goal to ensure the security of Russia and the implementation of its imperial aims, it would be the destruction of NATO.

As a military matter, however, it is not within Russia’s military power to defeat NATO. Echoing what President Lincoln said about the military defeat of the United States, only NATO can defeat NATO. Again, it will not be because of Russian military arms. It will be because NATO is not only a military alliance. NATO is also a political alliance. In the current response to Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, politics appears to be NATO’s Achilles heel.

Mr. Putin knows it and is cagily pitting his NATO antagonists against each other.

The first hairline fracture in NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the decision not to offer the besieged nation membership in the western alliance. The reason is elementary: under the NATO treaty’s Article 5, “collective defence means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” Thus, if the Russian invasion is still occurring during Ukraine’s ascension into the NATO alliance, its other members would be considered at war with Russia. Little wonder NATO prefers to continue to collectively defend Ukraine in a proxy war against Russia rather than issuing a catastrophic collective declaration that the allied nations are being attacked by and in a state of war with Russia.

Not wanting to declare World War III, NATO is less than enthralled with Ukraine’s request for membership. As the Kyiv Post headline reports, “some in the West have asked President Zelensky not to pressure individual allies to support a definitive, prescribed timetable for Ukrainian accession.”

In NATO’s membership, the “some” would be the U.S. and Germany:

“The United States and Germany are urging President Volodymyr Zelensky not to demand the ‘impossible’ – a clear timeframe for Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO at the Alliance’s summit, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported on May 28, citing its own sources.

Of course, where there are “some,” there are “some others.” Per the Kyiv Post: “Several member countries, including Estonia, the UK, Poland, Canada, Lithuania, and France, are advocating for increased support for Kyiv, potentially extending into Ukrainian territory.”

In a military and political alliance where there are “some” and there are “some others,” the inevitable occurs: “However, according to [The Telegraph’s] sources, before the NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023, countries that support Ukraine’s accession to the alliance put strong pressure on other members on this issue, which led to a split in the military bloc.” [Italics, mine.]

On cue, up slithers Mr. Putin to ratchet up the pressure on this hairline fracture in the NATO alliance: “Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Kyiv’s accession to the Alliance would threaten Moscow and not increase Ukraine’s security, as it would create ‘additional tension in the international arena.’”

Why, again, is NATO wary of Ukraine joining the alliance?

“At the NATO summit in Washington, which will be held from July 9 to 11, Ukraine will not be offered anything that would allow the country to move forward on the path to membership because of fears that the alliance could be drawn into a war with Russia.”

As both a military and political organization, NATO was able to diplomatically paper over the dispute and place in abeyance an ultimate determination regarding Ukraine’s membership.

The Telegraph writes that at the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., alliance leaders will offer Ukraine what is now being called a ‘bridge’ or ‘path’ to membership to demonstrate support for the process. The support package being discussed now will emphasize ‘Ukraine’s ability to choose its own future’ and demonstrate that the ‘path to membership is getting shorter….’”

While temporarily papering over this hairline fracture in NATO’s alliance, what is not getting shorter but is widening is another fissure over Ukraine, one that is even more pressing and dangerous: Ukraine’s use of NATO weapons on enemy targets in Russia.

We will explore this issue next week in the second and final part of our series on NATO’s divisive debates over Ukraine.

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) served Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: KYIV, UKRAINE - APRIL 20: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg attend a joint press conference on April 20, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was the NATO Secretary-General's first visit to Ukraine since last year's Russian invasion. (Photo by Roman Pilipey/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for Unsk Unsk says:

    I usually like Thaddeus’s post but this one is ridiculous.
    He just repeats all the insane nonsense spread by the Whack job Cabal Democrats and Neocons.

    Point One: We shouldn’t be in this war in the first place. It wss we who violated the understanding about expanding NATO. We were behind the Maiden Square massacre. We instigated the coup against the democratically elected government in Ukraine. We assisted the Ukrainian regime in murdering over14,000 ethnic Russians in the Donbas. We put ghastly experimental bioweapons labs and other bases near the Russian border, We sabotaged the Maiden accords and every effort to resolve this conflict peacefully while preparing and egging on Ukraine for this war. This was absolutely not as endlessly repeated by The Senile One an unprovoked war- we pushed Russia into this war despite many attempts by Putin to peacefully negotiate and literally gave them no option but to fight a war we mistakenly thought Wr could easily win.

    Point Two: The apparent reason for this war, which was never fully explained to the American people and which was never given its consent, was to overthrow the Russian government, as if that government was still controlled by the Soviet Leadership and a communist threat, which was and still is an imbecilic assertion. Instead of guiding Russian into what could have been a beneficial alliance we chose to undermine their government and force them into a warlike posture to the point where they fear for their people and for their very survival. This incredibly moronic geopolitical error forced Russia into an alliance with China and Iran, destroyed the Petro Dollar and ruined our diplomatic standing around to the point where we are seen now as just an international pariah - bully who violates it’s international agreements and uses state sponsored terrorism like Nordstream pipeline attack upon a whim with the sole intent of furthering our thoroughly corrupt Corporatist Interests worldwide and trying to exert an all powerful control over other nations interests.

    Point Three: Our corrupt and incompetent leadership, even after this administration knew full well we were the “bad guys” in this gross misadventure , never developed any coherent strategy for “winning” this war and worse yet has not been able to define what winning this war would look like even though we’re seemingly hellbent into escalating this conflict into a nuclear conflagration.

    Point Four: We cannot win this war, even if we had a moral obligation to win this war which we clearly don’t. Our many years of harassment and the two years of fighting this war
    have pushed Russia into creating a military that is arguably much better positioned by far to outgun, outman and out supply us and NATO. They have developed advanced hypersonic missiles that we cannot defend against along with developing a cutting edge drone strike strategies that render our vaunted ABM defense nearly useless. They have developed jamming strategies that jam much of our high tech weaponry that severely decreases their effectiveness. They have built a war machine that produced over three times the munitions we can and the two years of fighting experience has hardened their large army into a fighting force we likely cannot match, which begs the question why are we pursuing this insane strategy of now trying to attack inside Russia and seemingly force a nuclear war. We have made it very clear that we want to wipe out the Russians and yet we can’t fathom that they will justifiably respond eventually with devastating effect with their better equipped nuclear forces. This posture is certifiably insane.

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