Disappointment in NATO. Emotions should not destroy the future of Ukraine

Tuesday, 8 March 2022 — , European Pravda Editorial Board
AFP/East News

This editorial was written a week ago. However, its relevance has only increased.

On March 15, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukraine would not become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization despite NATO's "open door" policy.

This is a very dangerous statement. Dangerous primarily for the future of Ukraine. After all, only we can deprive us of the chance to join the alliance.


On Tuesday, March 8, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with ABC that he had "cooled down" on Ukraine's plans to join the Alliance. This rhetoric was later downplayed on his press service but not refuted.

Ans the issue is not only about the president. It reflects the views of many Ukrainians who are questioning this goal enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine at the height of the war. Accusations against Western partners are growing louder, and some of it is justified. High emotions are inevitable in the dark days of the war.

However, it is important not to jeopardize the future of Ukraine. Nor should Russia be given the impression that Ukraine is ready to comply with its demands.

This piece is an Editorial which means that the text is jointly signed by the entire editorial board. "European Pravda" uses such a format only in exceptional cases to stress the importance of the message. 


Ukraine is at a crossroads

... Ukrainians have been doing for 13 days what many in the West thought was simply impossible. 

The Armed Forces have successfully repulsed Russian attacks, destroying prevailing Russian army. They're proving to the world that Ukraine will fight and win. Today, literally every Western politician considers it his duty to express admiration for the heroism of Ukrainian defenders. 

But there is another truth that we must not close our eyes to.

In Ukraine, anger is often addressed to the West. Questions like "Why don't NATO impose a no-fly zone?" and emotional accusations such as "the blood of Ukrainian citizens is on your hands too" are slowly becoming mainstream.

... The Russian attack united Ukrainians in support of Ukraine's membership in the EU and NATO, which soared to sky-high levels. According to a poll by the Rating group, 86% support Ukraine's accession to the EU, 76% - for NATO membership, with only 5% and 9% against. Even in the eastern regions, there is a solid pro-NATO majority.

However, there is another truth with Zelensky publicly questioning the need to join NATO. Given high support for the president in the society, there is no doubt that ordinary citizens will stick to his scepticism, and the level of support for our accession will decrease.

Of course, during Russia's war against Ukraine, one cannot simply eliminate emotions and anger. Of course, the war makes tough demands to the West eligible. Of course, we need and deserve more support because Ukraine is protecting the whole world order from Russian fascism.

 However, such a vital decision should be logical and unemotional. 

Alliance and war

 "Today was the NATO summit, a weak summit, a confused summit," Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address last week, not hiding his anger. That day, members of the Alliance again spoke out against the participation of their military in the creation of the "no-fly zone" over Ukraine.

Let us leave aside that no NATO summit (meeting of Allied leaders) took place that day. There was a meeting of ministers, not leaders, and that is significant: only the leaders could decide on a joint decision for the Allies to enter into direct confrontation with a nuclear state. Although, at the highest level, neither in the U.S. nor in European capitals, there was no readiness for this step, too. 

Therefore, Zelensky has a moral right to blame our Western partners for failing to help Ukraine. 

Ukraine's demands seem reasonable as in 1994 several NATO members signed the "Budapest Memorandum" with Ukraine, providing security assurances in return for Ukraine's readiness to get rid of its nuclear weapon. That agreement does not contain legal obligations to protect Ukraine, but it creates a moral obligation.

Meanwhile, another part of Zelensky's blame for the West is in no way justified. In that speech president said that "NATO countries (due to their decision not to impose a no-fly zone) are now responsible for the deaths of Ukrainians". 

Emotions are understandable and widely shared, but blame the one who helps (although not enough) along with aggressors? Seriously?

It's like blaming the Ukrainian Armed Forces for the deaths of people in Kharkiv because they failed to protect it.

 Pure absurd, isn't it?

 One should not forget that NATO member states are really helping Ukraine to defend itself.

 Even more: one of the reasons Ukraine has managed to survive is the flow of weapons and munition from Western partners, which reached unprecedented scale over the past three months.

 Since the end of last year, when Putin began a large-scale military build-up on Ukraine's borders, NATO Allies began supplying Ukraine with state-of-art weapons like Javelins, NLAW. Some states, such as Germany, first did not want to do so, but after February 24, they also joined the supply. Ukraine is now getting thousands of tons of weaponry, from "Stingers" to anti-tank grenades, from artillery shells to machine guns. This flow adds confidence that we will win the war.

 In addition, all EU and NATO countries have given the green light for their citizens to fight in the war in Ukraine. Those countries where participation in armed conflicts abroad is prohibited by law (such as the Czech Republic) have taken special decisions to absolve volunteers of responsibility in advance.

 Let us emphasize once again: Ukraine and Zelensky personally still have reason to demand more. Under the current conditions, it is acceptable to put pressure on partners. And Ukraine has much to gain by playing on emotions. But we must not destroy Ukraine's future because of our disappointment.


Do we need a NATO membership?

 If the "Alliance's guilt" narrative can still be justified by negotiation tactics, the talk of "renunciation of NATO membership" is not justified by anything.

Fortunately, there is reason to believe that Zelensky's statement in ABC was emotional. Or it was an (unsuccessful) element of communication strategy, and the president's office understood this. In the official statement of the presidential press service about this interview, the topic of our membership was carefully ignored, as if it did not happen.

Of course, this idea that we might need not NATO membership is popular now. Especially against the background of the successes demonstrated by the Armed Forces.

Ukrainians are joking that "these days NATO wants to join Ukraine".

But this humour is certainly not a reason to meet a key Putin's demands during this war, which is to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO.

This path is deadly for Ukraine.

We have seen this in 2014 when the "non-alignment policy" did not save Ukraine and allowed Russia to occupy Crimea and part of Donbass while the state was weak.

 The Kremlin knows that abandoning NATO is guaranteed to split society, just as it did in 2013, when Yanukovych abandoned the EU. And an internal split is what the Kremlin needs most.

Nor can abandoning NATO be a temporary, tactical move. It would bury our prospects for joining the Alliance, proving that Ukraine is not genuine in its pro-NATO mood. EuroPravda journalists have repeatedly heard in Brussels that Allies do not understand whether one day Ukraine won't repeat its decision from 2010, when (again, under Yanukovych) Kyiv announced that it was no longer joining the Alliance.

None of these consequences is what Ukraine needs.

We don't like the fact that the Alliance doesn't want to protect us - but it doesn't have to. The Alliance's commitment is to protect its borders. That's why the United States is sending troops to NATO's eastern flank, not to Ukraine. Given that, it is even more logical to join the Alliance. 

Let us repeat: all this does not lower the responsibility of the Allies. 

Demands for the Allies to provide Ukraine with jets, sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons systems etc are eligible. While they are not obliged to provide this equipment, Ukraine has a moral right to make such demands. 

However, we should not risk the future of the country now because of our disappointment in the allies' reaction.

Indeed, as of now, the Alliance is not ready to give us membership. But membership is closer now than ever, because right now, quite unexpectedly, the door to the EU is opening for Ukraine.

There is also no agreement on the details of the procedure, but it has started. The prospect of Ukraine's membership in the EU has turned from a hypothetical into a reality. And when we carry out reforms and join this economic union, the West will also need to protect Ukrainian land and its investments in it. In order to protect the money of German, French, Dutch businesses.

That day NATO membership will also become a reality. That is, of course, if the Ukrainian government and society do not recklessly abandon it now.



Editorial article by European Pravda

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