Aleksandr Podrabinek: The Peculiarities of NATO

21 June 2023

by Aleksandr Podrabinek

Source: Radio Svoboda

In mid-June, at a meeting of defence ministers of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its members confirmed that they are not planning to accept Ukraine into NATO as long as military actions continue there. Instead, there is talk of guarantees for Kyiv’s security (hello Budapest memorandum!).

It’s hard to understand the logic of the NATO military-political leadership’s decisions. The chain of facts is this. In 2014, Ukraine set course for European integration, for joining the European Union and NATO. In order to block Ukraine’s plans, the Kremlin began first to render military support to pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas, and in 2022 shifted to open war. Now NATO, as if to encourage the Kremlin’s aggressive plans, has stated that as long as military actions are ongoing, Ukraine is not going to be in NATO! This confirms that Vladimir Putin calculated correctly by starting a war with Ukraine. He got what he wanted!

What follows from this situation? The conclusion is simple and clear. The Kremlin is going to continue to use military aggression against those countries whose entry into NATO Moscow considers undesirable for Russia. If the instrument is sound, why shouldn’t they use it as needed? In 2008, Georgia’s movement toward NATO was halted in an analogous manner. Ever since, a so-called territorial dispute has dragged on between Russia and Georgia, and according to the NATO charter, countries with unresolved territorial disputes cannot be accepted into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. Moldova, too, has this same kind of territorial dispute with the pro-Moscow authorities in Transnistria. Other countries will definitely find they have their own as soon as they start talking about joining NATO.

It would be the height of naiveté to think that NATO doesn’t understand what instrument Putin is playing in his geopolitical compositions. The issue lies elsewhere. Why does the West turn a blind eye to its own vulnerability? It can be put in an even worse way: Does the West consider this a vulnerability? Might Western leaders not see a serious danger for their own countries in the Russian regime’s expansionist course? On the other hand, this danger is quite obvious to the many countries of the former “socialist community” that still remember the yoke of the Communist regime now being reproduced with greater or lesser success in Russia.

On 15 June, the Polish Sejm passed a declaration which says that the North Atlantic pact is the most effective instrument of defence for a peaceful life in Europe. People in Poland understand very well that Ukraine is fighting not only for its own statehood but also for Western values: democracy, adherence to international law, and freedom. It is only in its outward form that it seems the war is between Ukraine and Russia. In fact, it is between democracy and tyranny. At one time, Poland opposed Nazi Germany, and that, too, was a war against a totalitarian regime, a war that gradually involved 62 of the 74 states in existence at the time. At that time the West realized too late the necessity of tough resistance to aggressive Nazism. Today Poland’s Sejm is calling on other European countries to help Kyiv. Ukraine’s entry into NATO would be beneficial for the alliance itself, as the Sejm’s declaration says.

Meanwhile, NATO itself just can’t agree on Ukraine joining the alliance. The reason for this is its perfectionist mechanism for making decisions: consensus. This is a very beautiful mechanism, but it deprives the organization of effectiveness. Turkey, for example, might block a common decision by citing the inaccuracy of the spelling of geographical names on the map of Cyprus in the resulting document. Turkey’s demands may be fair, but are they worthy grounds for obstruction? Hungary might easily keep Ukraine from joining NATO by pointing to the discriminatory nature of Ukrainian laws on language. Hungary’s pretensions are understandable. The populist laws passed in the years 2016-2017 under President Petro Poroshenko, in my view, do limit national minorities’ right to use their own language, in particular the Hungarians of Zakarpattia. However, is Hungary’s even fair indignation sufficient grounds for threatening security in Europe? After all, it should not be ruled out that the true reason for the “intractability” of certain NATO member-countries are not reasons like those listed above but their interest in good relations with or even their dependence on Moscow. It would be a pity if the beauty of consensus destroyed the world.

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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