The longer the Ukraine-Russia War goes on, the harder it becomes to remember a time before the war started. The Russian plan to take Kyiv within 72 hours seems nothing more than a distant memory. Events such as the thirty-seven-day Battle of Kyiv are hard to recall for anyone who was not there. Then there were the horrors of Bucha, Irpin, and Mariupol, just to name a few. The Russian retreat from northern Ukraine and the Donbas Offensive which grinds on to this very day. All these events blur the memory and remind us that war warps time. Last week can seem like last year when dramatic events surge to the forefront and wipe away memory of lesser events that once dominated the news cycle. Such important information as the reasons that Russia invaded Ukraine have been all but forgotten amid the whirlwind of a worsening war.
NATO Membership – An Antidote For Russian Aggression
One major event this week brought back into the news cycle the subject of NATO membership for nations attacked or threatened by Russia. As I recall, this was of prime importance in the leadup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That invasion has now led to some serious unintended consequences for Russia. This week it was announced that Finland and Sweden would be accepted as NATO members. The two Scandinavian nations, which share a border with Russia, eschewed 70 years of neutrality for NATO membership. Joining the alliance is a safeguard against Russian aggression. Both nations have seen the true nature of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Ukraine. Finland and Sweden believe the only way their security and sovereignty can be safeguarded is by joining NATO. Vladimir Putin wanted to keep NATO out of Russia’s backyard. His actions caused the opposite to happen.
The idea of NATO expansion is an oxymoron. NATO does not openly solicit members, no matter what Russian propagandists might say. Nations must voluntarily seek NATO membership. When they do, their application will be reviewed by the alliance and a decision rendered on whether they can join. The Putin regime has spent years promoting the fallacy that NATO seeks to expand at Russia’s expense. The truth is that nations in eastern and northern Europe have sought to join NATO in order to protect themselves from Russian aggression. Russia is the nation that seeks to expand. It does this at the expense of nations that might want to join NATO. The most prominent examples of this are the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 and the war in Ukraine. In each of these, Russian forces found a pretense to invade a sovereign nation’s territory.
Geopolitical Gaslighting – The Blame Game
The Putin regime’s propagandists are experts at geopolitical gaslighting. Some in the west have fallen for the fallacy that it is NATO expansion which led to Russia attacking Ukraine. Nothing could be further from the truth. NATO did not extend any offer of membership to Ukraine. The same was true for Finland and Sweden. It is Putin’s belligerence which pushes Russia’s neighbors into NATO. Does anyone really believe that Finland and Sweden would have joined NATO if Russia had not invaded Ukraine? Both nations were comfortable with neutral status until they saw what Russia is doing in Ukraine. NATO is a defensive alliance that stands as a bulwark against Russian aggression. Putin despises and fears NATO because it infringes upon his idea of expanding Russia’s sphere of influence in its near abroad. He cannot realize his neo-imperialist ambitions against NATO members. Attacking one would be tantamount to self-destruction for Russia.
One of Putin’s main reasons for invading Ukraine was to keep it from joining NATO. Of course, Ukraine was not applying to join NATO and even if they did, their acceptance would have been in doubt. The discussion of Ukraine and NATO dominated the early weeks of the war. Many wondered if Ukraine had been a member would Russia still have invaded. It is highly doubtful. Consider the fact that Russia has not invaded any NATO member’s territory. Some in the west were relieved that Ukraine never actively sought to become a member. The thinking went that if they had been a member, this would have brought NATO into direct conflict with Russia. Now very few commentators mention Ukraine and NATO in the same sentence. Instead, discussions have turned to supporting Ukraine militarily. Ironically, if Ukraine were to achieve victory in the war, joining NATO would become a distinct possibility.
No Way Out – Bottled Up In The Baltic Sea
While the subject of Ukraine and NATO has moved to the backburner, that is not the case regarding Finland and Sweden. They will now become full-fledged members of the alliance. Turkey, which had protested their membership on the grounds that both countries harbored Kurdish terrorists, has now backed their membership in return for promises that they will take a harder line with anti-Turkish terrorists. The strategic consequences for Russia of Finland and Sweden joining NATO cannot be emphasized enough. If Vladimir Putin’s worst fear was Ukraine as a NATO member, Finland and Sweden in NATO is a corresponding nightmare. Overnight, the Baltic Sea will become dominated by NATO forces. When Russian ships sail out into the Baltic, they will see NATO members all around them. There will be no more neutral harbors for their ships. This is a major strategic win for NATO.
After seeing how Russia has dominated the Black Sea in the current war, NATO has acted with foresight to ensure the same does not happen in the Baltic. Russia’s Baltic Fleet is now bottled up. There is nothing that Putin can do about this unless he wants to risk World War III and complete destruction. All his vocal protestations against NATO are nothing more than words. As we all know, actions speak louder than words. Putin and his propagandists can all the threats they want to against NATO members, but the reality is that Russia will now have to deal with NATO along most of their western border. If the Russians are looking for someone to blame for this transformation of the geopolitical landscape, they might want to start with their leader.
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