After everything that has happened in the Ukraine-Russia War it is easy to forget the reasons Vladimir Putin gave for his decision to invade Ukraine. The most ridiculous of these involved the Russian Army supposedly de-nazifying Ukraine. According to Putin and the rabid state-controlled media that amplifies the regime’s messages across Russia, Ukraine was a hotbed of Nazi sentiment. The Kremlin said this had manifested itself in genocides against ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. For this reason, Putin felt compelled to order the Russian invasion and save the lives of innocents who were being persecuted by a Ukrainian government that had been hijacked by the west.
None of this was true, but the truth never stopped Putin from projecting power by the most malevolent means. The invasion took place much to the detriment of the people Putin purported was trying to save. They were made to suffer at the hands of neo-fascist Russian forces. The dirty truth is that Russia is the nation badly in need of de-nazifying and much of that has taken place since war began as Ukrainian forces have inflicted a massive number of casualties on Russian forces.
Brilliant Coup – A Step Ahead
There was a period during the first several months of the war where the chance that Ukraine might eventually become a NATO member looked impossible. The past several weeks of the war have changed everything in this regard. NATO membership still looks like a long shot for Ukraine, but it can no longer be ruled out. Especially when taking into consideration Ukraine’s response to Russia’s sham referendum and announcement of annexation of four Ukrainian provinces partially occupied by Russian forces. Just a few hours after Putin presided over a ceremony announcing the annexations, the Ukrainians were presenting an idea of their own. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukraine was applying for NATO membership and asking the alliance to fast track their application.
Ukraine’s allies were first caught off guard by this announcement. The most striking example of this was the American administration which has been the Ukrainian’s biggest supplier of weapons, intelligence and financing. Sources said the Biden administration was not aware such an announcement was going to be made. Nevertheless, the administration did not reject the request as out of hand. They have been non-committal, practicing what is known as “strategic ambiguity. This allows the idea to sit there while the Russians wonder if their worst fears might come true. In retrospect, the announcement was another brilliant public relations coup by the Zelensky administration. It robbed Putin’s annexation announcement of the international media coverage he craves.
Joining Up – Eastern Europe’s Insurance Policy
In the week after Zelensky’s announcement, no less than nine NATO members supported Ukraine’s application. These included Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Montenegro and North Macedonia. Simply put, a large majority of Eastern European nations want Ukraine to join them in NATO. As each of these nations knows, NATO is the greatest insurance against Russian aggression, Historically, Eastern Europeans have repeatedly suffered from invasions by Russia (or the Soviet Union). Since joining NATO none of them have been invaded by Russia. A united front in the form of NATO is in the long-term security interests of Eastern Europe, as it is for the rest of Europe.
The Ukrainian announcement also raised the question of whether NATO might accept their application and push through membership if the Russians manage to continue occupying Ukrainian territory long term. While Russia would still have forces illegally occupying portions of eastern and southern Ukraine, they would be faced with a massive extension of their western border with NATO. In effect, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would be one of the greatest strategic mistakes in Russian history. Russia is already having to prepare for Finland and Sweden joining NATO. A direct result of Putin’s war in Ukraine. Conversely, Ukraine’s potential NATO membership could be used as leverage in a settlement to end the war whereby Russian forces leave all Ukrainian territory, Ukraine is given a security guarantee by its western allies, instead of NATO membership. While Putin would vehemently oppose this, his position as Russian leader is beginning to look more precarious by the day.
Strategic Miscalculation – Putin’s Folly
Putin’s strategic miscalculations have weakened Russia for at least a generation, perhaps longer. He would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to explain how his war has strengthened NATO influence that Ukraine becomes a member of the alliance. This was unthinkable by everyone except for Putin, his inner circle and Russian nationalists prior to the invasion. Now Putin faces a nightmare scenario of his own making. That is nothing new in this war. Putin continues to make one mistake after another. These mistakes seem to all be leading in the same direction, a stronger, more secure Ukraine backed by the military might of the western world.