17.04.2024 Author: Aleena Im

Why NATO Accepting Ukraine is a Bad Idea

Why NATO Accepting Ukraine is a Bad Idea

It is a safe assumption that the major reason Ukraine is in its current predicament is due to Zelensky’s desire to become the new best friend of the US and its Western allies. Despite several warnings from the Kremlin to not bring NATO to Russia’s doorstep, Ukraine’s efforts to do just that were clear. Ukraine hosted military infrastructure which hosted Western troops, was working on NATO-linked navy bases in the Black Sea region, signed a US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnerships, and was benefitting from US training programs for Ukrainian military forces.

Enhancing all kinds of ties with the US and other Western Powers (that are openly critical of Russia) meant that Russia was continually provoked. Moreover, Ukraine’s open proclamation to work towards joining NATO was maybe the final nail in the proverbial coffin. However, it is critical to remember that this was not an ‘unheard’ of provocation. In 2008, when Bush pushed for Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO, President Putin was clear.

He stated, “We view the appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders, a bloc whose members are subject in part to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, as a direct threat to the security of our country. The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice. National security is not based on promises.”

The staggering number of US bases across the world is a small indication of what was to come, had Ukraine officially joined NATO. Just to put things into perspective, Ukraine would become littered with the US military – just as 70 other countries and territories are. Despite the closure of hundreds of bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US maintains nearly 800 military bases around the world, and has over 60,000 troops in Europe alone. Moreover, NATO is not purely for defence as it often implies – the interventions in Libya and Kosovo did not aim to just ‘defend’ NATO territory.

Just by being a ‘close NATO partner’, Ukraine has received a pledged amount of $700 million through NATO. Moreover, most member countries have sent aid in one form or another, and global aid to Ukraine has reached a mind-blowing $278 billion. Ukraine might as well be a NATO member already, since just NATO allies have provided over 99% of the aid that Ukraine has received.

Calls (and efforts) to accept Ukraine into NATO are now intensifying. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has openly stated that they are reducing the requirements for Ukraine to join NATO. The US is continually stating that Ukraine will be a part of NATO soon.

However, it is critical to understand the problems that will arise if Ukraine is to be admitted into NATO.

War, chaos and widespread destruction. The first problem that will likely arise is members fulfilling the promises in Article 5. Article 5 of the treaty provides that if a NATO ally is attacked, the other members will consider it an attack on each one of them and will do what is necessary to support the ally. Analysts believe that a major reason Ukraine is still not officially a part of NATO is because the members are not ready for an outright war against Russia. Biden, while openly supporting Ukraine in all ways possible, has made it clear that he does not want to enter into a war with Russia over Ukraine. Over on the side of the opposition, Donald Trump has also expressed his unwillingness to risk American lives over this dispute.

If the US does not believe that it is necessary for them to do any more than send copious amounts of military aid to fulfil the conditions of Article 5, then the treaty’s validity for all the member countries becomes dubious. If the US does not want to put all that they have to fight Russia against Ukraine (if it becomes a NATO member), will it act the same way if France or Germany go to war? Backing off means devaluing the security ‘guarantee’ that NATO prides itself on.

The second problem is finance. Who will fund this World-War III like situation? The global economy has already suffered due to unforeseen disasters such as COVID. Voters are becoming increasingly aware of just how much taxpayer money is going out of the country as military aid, while the people in the country suffer from inflation, deteriorating infrastructure and budget cuts in the public sector. The US is now sending military aid to Israel and Ukraine, which means the support for the latter will dwindle. NATO allies have been injecting aid into Ukraine continuously, but really, how long will they do this for?

It is also important to note that the US is divided over giving more aid. Biden’s opposer Donald Trump has been sceptical of sending aid to Ukraine in the past, and this has been solidified by a recent statement by Hungarian PM Viktor Orban where he says that ‘Trump will not give a penny to the Russia-Ukraine conflict’. Without the financial support by the US, NATO allies may also fall short in giving enough aid to Ukraine.

The third conundrum is: Does Ukraine really have to be a NATO member to keep fighting Russia? It’s not like if Ukraine is not admitted into NATO, it will stop fighting. Zelensky’s obstinate efforts are not leading to anything, but he has no other option but to opt for self-defence. The NATO members know this – which is why Ukraine is still outside of NATO, looking in. Russia had made no efforts to take over the world, as the US often depicts. If the US is getting what it wants without admitting Ukraine into NATO – it is unlikely that it will risk triggering a possible nuclear war for it.

The fourth problem is that accepting Ukraine into NATO might even prolong the conflict. President Putin has been very clear in expressing his desire to protect his country at all costs, and has warned NATO allies repeatedly. If Ukraine were to join NATO, Russia may as well launch a harder campaign, potentially escalating the conflict to a full-fledge war against multiple NATO allies. Even if Russia were to only increase its military efforts against Ukraine, Ukraine’s dwindling population and resources would take infinitely more damage, which it might not be able to withstand.

The last problem is the special treatment Ukraine is getting with respect to the joining formalities. The council’s decision to give an exemption to Ukraine from obtaining a ‘Membership Action Plan’, a plan used to guide chosen applicants towards obtaining a membership, is setting a dangerous precedent. Nearly all countries that joined NATO in the 21st century first finished a MAP. By removing the requirement for Ukraine, NATO exposes its own hypocrisy, shows the world that it does not always follow its own procedures, and will most likely leave a sour taste for the potential members in the queue to join.

All NATO members, allies, and potential members should fully understand the list of risks associated with Ukraine becoming a full member of the organization. One small misstep here could trigger a full-scale world war, that no NATO country has the resources, stamina, and inclination for.


Aleena Im – is an independent researcher and writer and is interested in international relations, current affairs, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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