June 1, 2023


The annual NATO Summit takes place on July 11-12 in Lithuania, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies. By then, the re-elected Turkish government will likely allow Sweden to join NATO, providing it gets the American F-16s it has requested. But the first order of business should be to approve fast-track membership for Ukraine. This is a strategic necessity for Europe going forward and also deserved. Ukraine now has the world’s 10th biggest military force and battles against Russia, the world’s third largest. With alliance support, Ukraine has bloodied the most malevolent country in the world, and is key to the future security of Europe. Ukraine deserves NATO membership, or commensurate security guarantees now.

NATO support has been important, but America has made all the difference by giving $46.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the war began. It’s an enormous and generous sum, but Americans spend more than that every year on video games. It’s also an “investment” that’s changed the world. Without direct confrontation or boots on the ground, the U.S. has helped degrade Russia’s military capability. Moscow diminishes in importance and clout globally. China has been chastened. And pro-America Poland and the Baltics have supplanted France and Germany as moral leaders of the European Union. Warsaw supports massive numbers of Ukrainian refugees and is the staging ground for the ongoing conflict. Estonia has given more military help, in dollar terms, than France, and Lithuania was the first nation to provide air defence systems to Ukraine. The Baltics are spending 1.2 per cent of their GDP on providing military assistance to Ukraine, more than Germany, Canada or most NATO nations spend on their own defense.

Ukraine mobilized immediately and is now the Israel of Europe. Faced with an existential threat from Russia, its people have overcome impossible odds against an enemy hell-bent on genocide and conquest of the European continent as a whole. They are tough and they are smart. Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022, Ukraine’s armed forces have grown with 780,000 active and one million reserve personnel and a drone army greater than any nation in history. By comparison, Russia has 1.15 million active and two million reserve personnel, but is no match for NATO.

Once the nightmare is over, and Russia is expelled from Ukraine, Europe will be more fortified than ever. NATO will expand. Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, and Scandinavian countries will form a permanent defensive bloc protecting the rest of the continent against Russia. Most Europeans will have weaned themselves from Russian energy by then and Russia will be reduced to selling discounted energy to China and India. The world will be dominated by three economic superpowers – America, Europe, and China.

“Putin’s War Is America’s Opportunity” was the ebullient headline of Walter Mead’s piece in The Wall Street Journal this week. “Ukraine will emerge as a formidable force in Europe – and one aligned with the US. Vladimir Putin’s ill-judged, ill-planned and ill-prosecuted war has

ignited a national awakening in Ukraine, a new force in Europe whose interests and outlook place it firmly in alignment with the U.S.”

Europe militarizes. Defense budgets are growing. Pop-up factories have been built in Poland and other front-line NATO countries, using Ukrainian refugee labor, according to Pentagon sources. This is the beginning of Europe’s future military-industrial complex, which will be based mostly in Ukraine because of its IT and engineering expertise. This will permanently bolster Europe’s safety and keep whatever’s left of Russia in check.

Meanwhile, China has joined the right team at long last by staying on the sidelines and attempting to settle the conflict. This has been encouraged by a thinly-disguised White House chips-for-Russia “deal” and also reinforced by Europeans who ask China first, during trade discussions, when it is going to stop Putin. Also in the mix is Saudi Arabia’s ambitious new leader who’s breaking ranks with Russia for breaking OPEC cartel production limits by selling huge amounts of oil to China and India at low prices to stay afloat. Another irritant among rich Muslim nations, stoked by Ukraine’s Zelensky, is Russia’s mistreatment of its millions of Muslim residents who are treated as second-class citizens and used as cannon fodder in the war.

Unfortunately, the consensus is that NATO membership for Ukraine will not be on the table at the July meeting in Vilnius. But some members have agreed in principal to interesting and potentially acceptable alternatives. These include allowing Ukraine to enter into multiple bilateral arrangements with members of the multilateral framework, or creating a security model like Israel’s where the U.S. and Europe guarantee weapons and advanced technology. Backers of this scheme would include Britain, Germany, and France as well as America.

The key is that guarantees must be concrete, unlike the disgraceful 1994 pledge to protect Ukraine that America and Britain made, and reneged on, after Kyiv surrendered its portion of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal to Moscow. Under its terms, the UK and US should have immediately intervened militarily in 2014 and 2022 to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. They did not, a diplomatic lapse that Ukrainians have not forgotten. Any deal in future will have to be iron-clad or will be postponed until Russia is destroyed completely. “The security has to be binding enough to be credible, otherwise the Russians will not take it seriously, and it’s not going to deter them and prevent another war,” said a Kyiv official.

Zelensky last year submitted a formal application to NATO, but was told that joining was impossible given that the war was underway. But now there is no excuse. Ukraine has built a world-class military machine, and knows how to use it, and must be guaranteed security immediately as well as a future place in NATO.