Mario Loyola also wants the U.S. to threaten war to defend Ukraine:
Speaking in Belgium on March 26, 2014, President Barack Obama made it clear that military force would not be used to deter further Russian aggression outside NATO territory. Whatever the rationale behind this baffling clarification, it only increases the risk that the alliance will be drawn into a military conflict with Moscow. NATO has had to fight outside its borders before, and it may be forced to do so again if Russia keeps seizing its neighbors’ territory — regardless whether or not those neighbors fall under the alliance’s collective security blanket.
The best way to drag NATO into a shooting war with Russia is to say that it will fight on behalf of a country that it is not obliged to defend. Most alliance members would rightly balk at the prospect of going to war for Ukraine, and in the end there would be no consensus in favor of backing up the commitment made by a handful of leading states. If most NATO members aren’t prepared to risk armed conflict with Russia over Ukraine, and they aren’t, it makes even less sense for the U.S. to threaten the use of force. Making such a statement would not deter Russia, which would dismiss it as meaningless, but it could easily split the alliance and leave the U.S. in the absurd position of risking a major international war for a non-ally. It would be insane to risk a major war over Ukraine, which is why no one would believe any statements from Washington that the U.S. is willing to risk this. The “baffling clarification” that Loyola finds so objectionable is a statement of the merely obvious, since everyone already assumes that the U.S. and its allies aren’t willing to go to war to defend a state that doesn’t belong to the alliance.
It’s true that NATO has fought “outside its borders” before, but on two of those occasions it was taking sides in an internal conflict against relatively weak governments. When alliance members fought in Afghanistan, it was officially as a response to the attacks on the U.S. So NATO isn’t going to fight a war with Russia over a non-member, and it is foolish to argue that any individual member of NATO should be willing to do this. Ruling out the use of force in Ukraine gives nothing away, since there was never any chance that the U.S. would resort to using force there.
Loyola makes the unusual and ridiculous argument that Ukraine shouldn’t be brought into NATO, but that NATO should defend it nonetheless:
NATO may have little reason to admit Ukraine as a member, but it has every reason to defend it now.
Doing that would be the worst of both worlds: pledging to defend a state that the alliance doesn’t really want to defend, but not extending the official security guarantee to it that would at least make that pledge seem remotely plausible. Agreeing to bring Ukraine into NATO would be foolish and would most likely make things worse with Russia, which is never going to permit Ukraine to join the alliance. Pledging to defend the country while it is still outside of the alliance would be even more reckless. If the defense of NATO isn’t limited to the borders of its members, there is no limit to what could be justified in “defense of its collective interests.”