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No NATO for Zelensky's Ukraine

If the West caves to Zelensky’s demands, this winter could go from cold to nuclear.

Volodymyr Zelenskyi, Recep Tayyip Erdogan And Antonio Guterres Meeting In Lviv

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky has made a number of absurd requests over the course of his country’s war with Russia. He’s asked the U.S. and its NATO allies for fighter jets, access to NATO airfields, tanks, anti-aircraft weaponry, a U.S. imposed no-fly zone, boycotts on Russian energy, and crippling sanctions. All of these pail in comparison to Zelensky’s latest ask: an accelerated bid to join NATO. 

On its face, the proposition is so laughable one might think Zelensky is making a play to return to his old profession as a stand-up comedian. But Zelensky’s latest well-produced political stunt is no laughing matter. If the West caves to Zelensky’s demands, this winter could go from cold to nuclear.

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"We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO," Zelensky said in a Friday post on his Telegram channel.

"De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine—real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction," the Ukrainian leader went on to say. "We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance."

Zelensky, however, did not elaborate on how exactly Ukraine has helped or protected the United States as of late. And with Ukraine bitterly embattled in a war over its own territory, does anyone think it would come running to America’s rescue if the homeland came under attack, let alone the capacity (absent massive western transfers) to make a difference? The answer, of course, is no.

The bid for accelerated NATO membership was paired with bold moves from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin signed several treaties on Friday to annex four Ukrainian territories, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, each of which held referendums to join Russia, though the West has challenged the validity of the referendums’ results. At the treaty signing ceremony, Putin promised to protect the four newly annexed regions, which make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory, by “all available means.”

It’s a threat, a potentially nuclear threat, the West should take seriously, instead of writing off as merely a “bluff,” as the Washington Post’s Max Boot claimed, or the machinations of a madman in Moscow. Allowing Ukraine to enter NATO in its current state would surely trigger Article 5, at least as the current crop of foreign policy elites in Washington interprets it.

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If Ukraine weasels its way into NATO, cash, armaments, equipment, and troops would flow in one direction and one direction only. At that point, just a conventional war with Russia is, as insane as it sounds, the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that Russia follows through on its threats as the U.S.-led NATO alliance pulls its forces into the fray. In this scenario, anyone who rules out nuclear war lacks imagination.

It’s possible that Ukraine’s NATO application is symbolic. If that’s the case, even more shame on Zelensky for making a political stunt out of a potential nuclear war. Regardless, Zelensky’s NATO application, genuine or feigned, shows a contemptible disregard for the consequences of his actions. 

But Zelensky has been emboldened by his Western backers to apply for NATO as a result of decades of ill-conceived American foreign policy towards Europe via NATO. He knows that if Ukraine is able to join NATO, the United States will permanently foot the bill for Ukraine’s national defense. All of America’s European NATO allies know this, too, as evidenced by the continent’s abysmal spending on national defense. 

If Washington doesn’t say no to Ukraine in NATO, Americans would gain nothing, but could cost us everything.

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