A U.S. promise that Ukraine wouldn’t be allowed to join NATO may not have stopped the Russian attack on that country. The American response to the war seems to suggest that forswearing this option would not have had any negative consequences.
American President Joe Biden, along with other European allies, have swiftly condemned the invasion. However, other than threatening more sanctions and not recommending any military intervention in support of Ukraine’s war against Russia, nobody in power suggests that this be done.
“We made it very clear that we do not have plans or intentions to deploy NATO troops in Ukraine,” stated NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Reuters. Biden also stated today at a press conference that, while the United States was increasing its presence in the region, it wasn’t going to Europe for combat in Ukraine.
The fear of engaging in a shoot war with Russia about Ukraine is shared by many Americans across all political lines.
Although they have used a lot more heated language than usual, Democrat leaders have not floated any harsher sanctions against Russia. On the right, even normally eager interventionists like Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) The idea of sending troops into Ukraine has been abandoned by even the most ardent interventionists like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
And earlier this week, a bipartisan group of 43 House members—ranging from socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) to libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.)—sent Biden a letter reminding him that any deployment of troops to Ukraine would have to be approved by Congress first.
The public also shares this non-interventionist view. A consistent poll shows that less than 25% of Americans are in favor of war with Russia over Ukraine.
This all is to say that the American public, and policymakers, have zero interest in spending blood and treasure to defend the nation of Ukraine, even if Russia has explicitly attacked.
Despite that unwillingness to defend Ukraine, the U.S. has continually expressed openness to the country eventually joining NATO—an arrangement that would commit us and the rest of the 30-nation alliance to defending it from attack.
U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin, who was visiting Kyiv in October 2017, stated that Ukraine has the right to make its own decision about joining NATO. He also said that there would be no third countries (i.e. Russia had the right to veto NATO membership decisions.
Given America’s widespread apathy to actually defending Ukraine—a country that has little bearing on our security or economic well-being—it seems disingenuous to continually raise Ukrainians’ own hopes that they might be accepted into the alliance.
The security concerns raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin have only been worsened by NATO membership open to Ukraine.
On a podcast, William Ruger (president of AIER and nominee for President Donald Trump as ambassador to Afghanistan), stated that “a large part of this concern Russian security concerns.” The Russians would have basically the same fear [of Ukrainian NATO membership]That is what we would do if China sought to form an alliance between Mexico and China. Mexico was ready to partner. That would be unacceptable.
Putin is now attempting to invade Ukraine, aiming to prevent any other NATO member from ever appearing on the country’s border. This doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but is a legitimate exercise in power politics.
If the U.S. had closed off the doors to Ukrainian NATO membership that would have eased Putin’s security worries. Perhaps this would have prevented a Russian invasion. Maybe war would not have occurred anyway.
It would have at least signaled that the U.S. and other NATO members are not willing to go to war in order to protect Ukraine. It would have cost nothing, even if it was unlikely that the gesture of peace preservation will be successful.