In a news release, NATO said Ukraine can join the bloc when allies agree and conditions for Ukrainian membership are met. It sounds like an evasive statement, which likely points to the unwillingness of NATO to open its doors for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky called the whole situation “absurd” and a motivation for Moscow to continue its terror against Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Presidential Office, is more optimistic. He is convinced that Ukraine will get an invitation to join NATO at the Washington summit in 2024. He is confident that Russia will cease to exist as a country capable of waging wars by then.

Will Russia be so emasculated as to be incapable of taking further military action against Ukraine? Only time will tell. No matter how much we would like to dismiss the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in a desperate fight to avoid defeat and subsequent humiliation, we can’t underestimate Russia until its decisively defeated.

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Even NATO membership doesn’t guarantee complete safety from Russian aggression. A Russian missile which landed near the northern Polish city of Bydgoszcz is a perfect example of this. Would there be no response from NATO if a similar missile landed in Germany?

There appear to be first- and second-class members in NATO. While it’s never going to be stated openly, one can surmise that the US and Western Europe are first-class NATO members . The US is a key player in NATO’s nuclear weapons sharing program. Poland hopes to join the program, but the US is unlikely to agree to such a provocative move.

‘Irreversible Path’ to NATO, $43 Billion in Aid – Key Takeaways from NATO’s Summit
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‘Irreversible Path’ to NATO, $43 Billion in Aid – Key Takeaways from NATO’s Summit

Though Ukraine’s membership was not on the agenda, NATO pledged long-term aid for Ukraine even as future US continued participation in the Alliance remains uncertain.

Given the current geopolitical context, what Russian political scientist Sergey Karaganov wrote in his article titled “There is no choice: Russia will have to launch a nuclear strike on Europe” about America unwilling to sacrifice a hypothetical Boston for a hypothetical Poznan is likely accurate. Poland, Finland, the Baltics and Romania are in NATO but it doesn’t mean they should believe Biden’s assurances that every inch of NATO territory is sacred. Policymakers and average citizens constantly talk about the NATO charter’s Article 5, but what does it actually say?

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Article 5 provides that if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.”

The phrase “deems necessary” seems to indicate that NATO allies don’t need to help militarily if they are unwilling to do so. One NATO member might deem it necessary to send helmets, while another member decides to send nuclear weapons.

Then there is the matter of hybrid warfare, which includes cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing elections.

In addition, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have written a letter to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warning that the presence of the Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus could lead to the loss of control of Russian nuclear weapons. Has there been any kind of NATO action plan in response to dangerous developments in Belarus?

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If the crisis with Belarus escalates, Poland will have to declare a state of emergency near the border with Belarus. NATO’s condemnation of nuclear weapons in Belarus is a welcome step, but verbal statements don’t deter Putin. Poland and the Baltics can’t feel safe when all they get from NATO are verbal assurances.

Nations on the eastern NATO flank understand the difficult position Ukraine is in. Poland is doing what it can to speed up Ukraine’s NATO accession process. Andrzej Duda also recently said that NATO’s declaration concerning Ukraine’s future NATO membership is insufficient. The Polish President doesn’t rule out sending troops to Ukraine, but only when there’s a ceasefire.

Ukraine is set to receive Israel-style security guarantees from its powerful Western allies, including the UK, US, France, and Germany, to bolster its defenses against Russian aggression. France will supply Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles.A coalition of 11 western countries will begin training Ukrainian pilots in modern US-made F-16 fighter aircraft next month, the defense ministers of Denmark and Netherlands said on Tuesday.

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While these are welcome steps, they don’t seem to be enough to deter Russia from raining missiles down on Ukraine. Are there alternatives to NATO for countries in the region?

Intermarium was a post-World War I geopolitical plan conceived by Józef Piłsudski to unite former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth lands within a single polity. Perhaps reviving Intermarium could be a viable alternative to NATO for Poland and its closest neighbors and allies. As appealing as it might be, however, discussing Intermarium is impractical at this point. Ukraine must win the war first. 

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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