Vladimir Putin upstaged NATO’s 75th-anniversary summit in Washington by bombing a children’s hospital in Kyiv, issuing an arrest warrant for Alexei Navalny’s widow, making a pact with Hungary’s treacherous Viktor Orban, and getting a big hug from India’s Prime Minister who swapped morality for cheap Russian oil.

Each loathsome act underscored the need, more than ever, for the military alliance to step up and strengthen its resilience and resolve going forward.

NATO was founded in 1948, because of Stalin’s brutal blockade of West Berlin, and the Organization now faces the same barbarian at its “gates,” plus others. To survive, it must go all in for Ukraine and declare its path to NATO membership “irreversible” which would remove Putin’s main incentive behind prolonging the war.

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It would also pit Putin directly against an unbeatable alliance. The total military budget for NATO’s 32 members is 10 times’ bigger than Russia’s military budget, notes retired US Admiral and former NATO commander James Stavridis. “Putin is the greatest salesman for NATO membership ever…he thinks he is Stalin but will end up like Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.” 

Chinese Military Delegation Negotiates Logistics Cooperation with Belarus
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Chinese Military Delegation Negotiates Logistics Cooperation with Belarus

The visit coincided with the ongoing “anti-terrorist” exercise involving Chinese and Belarusian troops on the Polish border, with the discussions on “logistics support” a cause of some concern.

It’s a pity that France’s Emmanuel Macron was not a featured keynote speaker at NATO this time. He was in Paris on the first two days sorting out an election upset which may end up weakening his power at home. He is an important advocate for the re-armament of Europe in light of the Russian threat, and has offered French troops to help Ukraine if requested.

Another aggressive leader is Poland’s President Andrzej Duda who wants nations to raise their military spending commitment to 3 percent. Poland is already at 4.2 percent and moving toward 5 percent. Both should be heeded.

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Biden’s opening speech was strong and well-received, important following his debate debacle.

“The war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country” he said and warned that Putin “won’t stop at Ukraine.”

He pledged more air defense and attack weaponry, and NATO agreed to bankroll arms manufacturing across its membership and has bought $ 700 million worth of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for Ukraine on behalf of several states.

Britain’s new Prime Minister became the latest leader to give permission to Kyiv to use its long-range missiles at targets inside Russia.

Poland recently signed an iron-clad bilateral security deal with Kyiv which involves joint air defense and troop training. And NATO will establish a new military command in Germany to train and equip Ukrainian troops and place a senior representative in Kyiv to deepen Ukraine’s relationship with the alliance.

All this is commendable, but the reality is that including and helping Ukraine is not optional. It’s existential. The country is the best NATO member NATO never had.

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But Washington and Berlin have put the brakes to its outright membership, insisting that Kyiv must win the war before it can be considered for membership. However, that delay motivates Putin to perpetuate his war of attrition in order to ensure Ukraine never receives an invitation to join NATO.

And that’s why the process must start now.

The other reason to do so is that no country deserves inclusion more than does Ukraine, given its sacrifices as well as its success in degrading Putin’s armed forces. Since 2022, it’s caused more than half a million Russian casualties, regained half of the territory seized after 2022, and destroyed one-third of Russia’s Black Sea fleet then driven the rest from Crimea. It now attacks Russian military and oil facilities at will, and again exports its grain to the world.

NATO should welcome Ukraine but should also cull and discipline existing members. A recent deal allowing Hungary to opt out of Article 5 when it comes to helping Ukraine – in return for not blocking NATO actions to fight Russia – should be reversed immediately and if Budapest objects, its government should be shown the exit.

This arrangement clearly abrogates the Organization’s principle which is one-for-all-and-all-for-one.

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Another important task is that NATO must clamp down on its laggards, Canada and Belgium, for not meeting their financial security spending commitments for years.

Wrote Politico “Canada readily signed the 2014 pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea in Ukraine. Two of the holdouts are Canada and Belgium, both of which are not only failing to meet the 2 percent goal but also the requirement to spend 20 percent of that on new equipment. Unlike Canada, however, Belgium says it’ll get there by 2035. When will Canada? They won’t say.” NATO should invoice each nation.

NATO also extended its reach by inviting close non-NATO allies to its proceedings: Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

But India, with the world’s biggest population and armed forces, wasn’t there because its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, attended a simultaneous summit with NATO’s arch-enemy Putin.

What’s interesting to note is that Russia’s bombing catastrophe coincided with Modi’s hug with Putin in Moscow, and was reminiscent of Putin’s grandstanding love-in with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2022 just days before his invasion of Ukraine which he didn’t tell Xi was going to happen.

Both leaders became willing props for Putin but are also involved by financing Moscow with oil purchases and feeding its war machine. On July 10, China was warned by NATO to stop supplying tech to Russia, but India should be warned against trading arms to Putin.

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Because the Modi hug with Putin took place at the same time as innocents were being slaughtered by Putin at a children’s hospital in Kyiv. President Volodymyr Zelensky appropriately wrote: “It was a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world's largest democracy hug the world's most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day."

Thug Hug by the amoral Modi

Ukraine also deserves immediate membership in NATO in order to right wrongs. In 1990, the country pulled out of the Soviet Union, triggering the collapse of the Evil Empire. But it was orphaned. Still influenced by Soviet operatives and equipped with an army, its new government refused an invitation to join NATO.

However in 1994 it was pressured to surrender its nuclear arsenal to the new Russian Federation and, in return, was given cash plus a security guarantee called the Budapest Memorandum.

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That deal was signed by the US, UK, and Russia who each guaranteed to prevent Ukraine’s borders from ever being breached. None lived up to their promises and after 1994 Moscow began land grabs in Georgia, Moldova, Syria, and Ukraine.

During the Cold War, Europe also slept. France’s Emmanuel Macron decried its de-militarization and called NATO “brain dead.” Germany barreled ahead building pipelines with Russia, which were obviously intended to hold the continent captive to Russian energy.

Now there is a terrible war in Europe and no excuse for hesitancy to fully help or reward Ukrainians for defending Europe’s eastern flank from being overrun by Kremlin cannon fodder.

The only solution is that NATO can and must defeat Russia. Its signs of weakness have been pounced on by Russia and extended the conflict. This year there are concerns about a Trump presidency gutting America’s contributions to the cause.

To counteract these obstacles, actions to Trump-proof NATO must be expedited such as more aggressive financial commitments and the deployment of more troops into Eastern Europe, especially the Baltics who worry that Putin’s next step is to invade them this year.

All three of these tiny countries are fortifying their borders, bolstering their security systems, raising civilian armies, and allowing guns in homes. For those who think this is preposterous, just ask yourself how secure would you feel if you bordered Russia and NATO pulled its punches, kowtowed to Hungary, and allowed members to shortchange their commitments?

Young dialysis patient at Kyiv bombing incident

NATO must and can provide Ukraine with everything it needs to expel Russia. This is 1948 all over again and the alliance must rescue Europe’s largest and most valiant country, or all of Europe and others will be at risk.

Reprinted from [email protected] – Diane Francis on America and the World.

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

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