WASHINGTON.- With your support for the from Finland, and in a few days from Sweden, to join NATOthe american president Joe Biden and its Western allies are doubling down on their bets that Russia will pay a heavy price for its huge strategic mistakes of the past three months: undergo the enlargement of the Atlantic alliance that the President Vladimir Poutine intended to fracture.
But the decision leaves several important questions unanswered. To doWhy not allow Ukraine to join as well? -this corrupt and imperfect, but also heroic democracy, at the heart of the current conflict- to enshrine on paper the obligations of the West with the security of this country?
And will the enlargement of NATO to 32 members, which in turn will add thousands of miles of borders with Russia, help prevent Russia from attempting a savage and unwarranted invasion again, or will it- such as cement the existing rift with an isolated, angry, nuclear-armed adversary already in fact paranoid about the West’s “encirclement”?
On Thursday, the White House welcomed the Finnish government’s announcement that their country “will endeavor to join NATO without delay”and we expect that Swedish government will follow these steps in the coming days. Unsurprisingly, Russia immediately responded that it would take “retaliatory measures”among other things, a “technico-military” response, which many experts have interpreted as the veiled threat of a tactical deployment of nuclear weapons on the Russian-Finnish border.
US officials have been meeting quietly with their Finnish and Swedish counterparts for weeks to bolster the two countries’ security guarantees as their applications to join the Atlantic alliance are processed.
For Biden and his team, the argument for bringing in Finland and Sweden and excluding Ukraine is very simple: the two Nordic states are exemplary democracies and have modern armies with which the United States and other NATO countries regularly conduct exercises, such as joint operations to track Russian submarines, protect undersea communications cables and conduct air patrols in the Baltic Sea.
Ukraineon the contrary, it is in the heart of the former Soviet Union that Putin is now trying to rebuild, at least in part. And although three years ago it amended its Constitution to enshrine NATO membership as a national goal, the truth is that in Ukraine there is too much corruption and lack of democratic institutionsand its NATO membership would have to wait years, if not decades.
The main members of NATO, led by France and Germanyclarified that they don’t want to include Ukraine. And less than less now than the president’s government Volodymyr Zelensky it’s in war: If Ukraine was a full member of the alliance, the United States and the other 29 members would be forced to get directly involved in the conflictbecause of NATO’s fundamental promise that “The attack on one is an attack on all”.
Zelensky understands what is happening and after weeks of insistence he has stopped calling on Ukraine to join NATO. At the end of March, a month after the Russian invasion and when there still seemed to be a prospect of a diplomatic solution, the President of Ukraine made it clear that he was ready to declare Ukraine a country “neutral” if it would definitely end the war.
“We are ready to give guarantees of security and neutrality, and that we will be a non-nuclear stateZelensky told Russian reporters, a phrase he has since repeated many times.
His remarks relieved Biden, whose first goal is to irreversibly drive the Russians out of Ukraine, but whose second goal is to prevent World War III.
And that means avoiding direct confrontations with Putin’s forces and avoiding anything that could end in a potentially nuclear escalation. If Ukraine joined NATO, it would reinforce Putin’s view that the former Soviet state was conspiring with the West to destroy the Russian stateand it would only be a matter of time before a direct confrontation would break out, with all the dangers that come with it.
The big question is therefore whether the enlargement of NATO does not imply start a new cold war, or worse. The same discussion took place under the Bill Clinton administration, when the White House was warned of the dangers of NATO expansion. At that time, George F. Kennan – the architect of the “containment” strategy that was applied in the post-war period to isolate the Soviet Union – described this expansion as “the most fatal mistake of American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era”.
Last week, Anne-Marie Slaughter, executive director of the New America think tank, warned that “all parties involved should take a deep breath and move up a gear”.
“The likelihood of Russia invading Finland or Sweden is very small,” Slaughter wrote in The Financial Times. “But the admission of these countries into the military alliance will redraw and deepen the divisions that were established in Europe in the 20th century, and this will probably block the emergence of innovative and courageous ideas on how to achieve peace and prosperity in the 21st century.”
That’s the long-term concern, but in the short term, what NATO and White House officials want is ensure that Russia does not become a threat to Finland or Sweden before they become official members of the alliance. (That means no current member of the alliance opposes joining, and many believe Putin will lean on Hungary and its prime minister, Viktor Orban, to reject the two countries’ request.) Alone Britain has been explicit on the issue, signing a separate security pact with the two countries, while the United States has not specified what security guarantees it is prepared to offer them.
But the US government says it was Putin who brought about the enlargement of NATO, when invading a neighboring country of the alliance. White House press secretary Jen Psaki freely quoted Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who made it clear that it was the situation in Ukraine that had forced Finns to rethink their country’s security.
“The cause of all this is you,” Psaki said, referring to Putin. “Look in the mirror.”
David E. Sanger
New York Times
(Translation by Jaime Arrambide)