Ukraine’s parliament on June 8 voted to make joining NATO a strategic goal of Ukraine’s foreign policy. It’s about time, as Russia’s war against Ukraine is in its fourth year with no end in sight. While this is largely a symbolic measure — nobody expects that Ukraine will join the alliance anytime soon — it is at least a sign that the country is at last starting to take its future defense seriously. After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the 14 ex-Soviet republics (apart from Russia) broke into two groups — those willing to accept limited sovereignty and regional hegemony by Moscow and those that were not. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were formally part of the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, chose full sovereignty, defense security under NATO and membership of the European Union. They have since thrived. The other 11 republics have either become repressive dictatorships or semi-democratic states, dominated politically and economically by Moscow. Five of them — Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine — have suffered war, most of these either directly or indirectly engendered by the Kremlin. Georgia, and most recently Ukraine, have been directly attacked by Russian forces and had parts of their territory occupied for attempting to move out of Moscow’s orbit and integrate with the West. The Baltic states, by quickly joining the West while Russia was weaker in the 1990s, have seen no conflicts, even though they all have significant ethnic Russian populations — the supposed casus belli in Georgia and Ukraine. Since the 2014 dismemberment of Ukraine at the Kremlin’s hands, the lesson for Ukraine could not be clearer: Join NATO and the EU; life in allegience with (really in subservience to) Moscow is dangerous. So Ukraine’s step towards NATO, while longer overdue, is important. Ukraine now needs to get out of the slow lane and rapidly shift into high gear by fully integrating with the West. The nation has nothing to fear from Moscow any longer.

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