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Yes, NATO is Coming to Ukraine

By Michael D. Reisman



I’m as cynical as you, Dear Reader, but I must disagree with our friend David Elley’s doomsday scenarios about the US and the world. I firmly believe that one day Ukraine will be a member of NATO. Why? Ukraine has wanted to join NATO since the 2000s and at the 2023 Vilnius Summit, NATO members reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine’s accession. And no country in NATO has sacrificed as much as Ukraine.

 

NATO membership is a sacred commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that “an armed attack against one or more” members “shall be considered an attack against them all” and each member “will assist” the attacked country. It’s been invoked only once, after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. That means a lot to me as a New Yorker.


But four-times-indicted Donald J. Trump doesn’t believe in the sacred or in commitments or in the truth. To get some media attention and amuse his followers, a few days ago he encouraged the Russians to “do whatever they hell they want” to NATO countries who don’t pay their bills, persisting in the delusion that NATO countries owe the US money. The reality is that in 2006 NATO countries agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their GDP to defense spending, but only 11 of 31 members have met that benchmark:



Notice that Poland, a country invaded by Russia numerous times since the 18th century, tops the list at almost 4%. In fact, the US military now operates at more than a half-dozen bases in Poland, on which the Polish government will spend almost $300 million for upgrades.

 

Trump and his sycophants frequently and falsely accuse European nations of not doing their share to assist Ukraine. So far, Europe has provided $96 billion in aid to Ukraine – more than the US – and recently agreed to provide $54 billion for reconstruction. And while the US dithers about with the notion of seizing Russian assets, the EU just enacted a law to tax the profits on frozen Russian central bank assets to create a fund for Ukraine.

 

Trump has and will threaten to withdraw from NATO to rile up his base, which views international alliances as suckers’ bets and ruthless dictators as hot bods of manly virtue. It’s one of the ironies of US politics that formerly antiwar Democrats form a bulwark with centrist “Reagan Republicans,” while Trumpies have become doves (when they’re not ransacking the Capitol). It’s also ironic that former anti-Trumper and current Trump mini-me Marco Rubio thinks that NATO is so important that he teamed up with a Democrat -- Tim Kaine (Hillary Clinton’s old running mate) – to pass a law that would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate for the US to withdraw from NATO and use the power of the purse to defund any effort to withdraw. In other words, little Marco wants to save NATO from Trump!

 

US opponents of Ukraine funding embrace two contradictory ideas, blaming NATO for backing Russia into a corner and “forcing” it to invade Ukraine, while simultaneously arguing that Biden’s support for Ukraine has been weak. The first notion is false for many reasons, in particular because NATO never threatened Russia and it is the sovereign prerogative of each country to decide whether it wants to join NATO. The second idea -- which Mr. Elley seems to buy into even though I’m sure he supports Ukraine funding -- is false because Biden has been a strong advocate of Ukraine for more than a decade, as shown by the $320 million in assistance and a $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee in 2014 when he was VP, and his securing of $48.7 billion in security assistance, $26 billion in financial assistance (including loans), and almost $3 billion in humanitarian aid from 2021 to 2024. In February 2023, Biden visited Kyiv on the anniversary of the Russian invasion, joining a short list of sitting US presidents to visit active war zones.

 

It's true that Biden and his advisors have not sufficiently explained why supporting Ukraine is vital to US national security interests, or how sending Ukraine weapons made in America helps the American economy (a/k/a bombenomics):

 


Most importantly, Biden has not explained that for a small fraction of the US defense budget and no U.S. casualties, the US benefits on the cheap from its military aid to Ukraine, which has significantly degraded the military capabilities of one major adversary (Russia) and deterred others (China and North Korea) from adventurism that would harm US interests. Put simply, Ukrainians are dying every day for American freedom.

 

As I was finishing this piece, the US Senate, with a trio of 66-33 votes, including 17 Republicans in the affirmative, approved procedural motions to end debate and proceed to a final vote on a $95 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. It will happen on Wednesday or when Rand Paul tires of spewing his vapid word salad at an empty room, whichever comes first. The Republican votes tonight and numerous speeches in support of Ukraine – in particular from former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney – were inspiring. “The vote we will soon take to provide military weapons for Ukraine is the most important vote we will ever take as US Senators,” Romney said.

 

As the Monday night Senate vote-a-rama began, House Speaker Johnson, another Trump mini-me, tried to pull focus with a cryptic hostage note saying that “the House will have to continue to work its own will on these matters,” which some have already interpreted as a death sentence to the Senate bill. But just as Homer Simpson knows the number for 911, Johnson knows how to say “DOA” but hasn’t yet. If he does, centrist Republicans may join Democrats on a discharge petition to force a vote on the bill or perhaps deploy some other clever procedural tactic.

 

Trump has and may again attempt to destroy democracy in America and around the world. He will fail because the rule of law is strong and many reasonable people will resist. And when his ochre hairpiece is a-mouldering, NATO will still protect us.

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