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Ukrainian Security Guarantees For NATO Partner-Countries

Ukrainian Security Guarantees For NATO Partner-Countries © depositphotos/Anutaray
Security guarantees FROM Ukraine will become "self-integration" into the Alliance

After almost a decade of Russian aggression, many in Ukraine and in the West have awakened to the realization that Ukraine's membership in NATO is a critically necessary political condition for Ukrainian victory, and for Russia’s strategic defeat. If this condition is not satisfied, the risk of the Russia-Ukraine war turning into decades long military conflict grows exponentially. Such protracted conflict is bound to pull in more actors, potentially leading to military confrontation on a global scale.

Despite these obvious risks, we have seen in recent weeks a torrent of ersatz political proposals designed to substitute Ukraine's NATO membership with half-decisions and insignificant gestures. These proposals do not meet the challenges of our times, and sow suspicion that Ukrainian membership in the alliance remains a bargaining chip in major negotiations at the global power table.

As the Vilnius NATO summit approaches, the discussion about Ukraine's membership has brought into sharp focus the self-imposed "red lines" of many Western governments. In  essence, those lines rely on the dead end position that Ukraine can not join NATO as long as the threat of Russian aggression exists. Let us set aside that this logic defies the core idea for NATO’s existence, as it was founded precisely for the purpose of protecting the free world from Moscow’s threat. Politicians who hold such view on the prospects of Ukrainian membership know very well that this threat will not disappear either after the end of the war or after the end of Putin's rule, because Russia illegally annexed Ukrainian lands by incorporating them into the Russian Constitution. So these politicians knowingly play a dangerous game with Ukraine’s future. No promises of support for Ukraine through high-level mechanisms can make the bitter pill of rejection taste any sweeter.

This impossible situation demands unprecedented action to bring Ukraine closer to NATO membership, and, more importantly, to have NATO announce the invitation for Ukraine without any postponement, while the war continues. In 2022, Ukraine astounded the world on the military front. Today, it needs to jolt NATO with strong action on the diplomatic front.

Europe’s eastern shield

Ukraine must formalize its moral leadership as the main defender of freedom in the world against the vicious aggressive plans of Moscow and the countries that support its anti-Western policy. Ukraine is a barricade against a new axis of destructive power which is taking shape in the world. This anti-western axis is ready to claim hegemony by destroying the rules-based international legal order and the principles of human rights and democracy.

The time has come to consolidate by political and legal means Ukraine's role as the eastern pillar of Europe's defence against the greatest threat to its peaceful future.

One such action could be the unilateral declaration by the Ukrainian government that, in the event of an illegal armed attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine’s closest partner countries, Ukraine will consider this attack an act of aggression against itself, and, upon receiving request, it will provide military assistance to the victim of the aggression.

Undertaking a unilateral commitment analogous to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty will make Western skeptics of Ukraine's membership in NATO face an unprecedented situation where the members of the alliance will receive a security shield from a country that has a unique experience of direct military confrontation with Russia. Ukrainian security guarantees will give additional confidence to the countries of NATO's eastern flank in their ability to repel Moscow’s aggression.

A threat to NATO's eastern flank

Contrary to popular belief, NATO has its vulnerabilities. Since its establishment, the alliance has adapted its strategic concept of defence and deterrence many times in order to maintain the ability to respond to new challenges while minimizing vulnerabilities. These changes reflected the constant search for a balance between relying on the strategic deterrence of American nuclear weapons, and counting on the ability to respond by conventional means to military or hybrid attacks against the territory of member states, primarily NATO's eastern flank. Given nuclear parity with the Russian Federation and the risks of a planetary cataclysm that a nuclear war could lead to, NATO has long since abandoned the concept of a massive retaliatory strike in the event of a non-nuclear threat, and would therefore respond by conventional means.

It is obvious that the ability of the alliance to protect member countries on the eastern flank from a large-scale, rapid limited or hybrid attack by the Russian Federation was and remains a challenge. Neither nuclear deterrence nor existing non-nuclear means on the territory of NATO’s European members can fully guarantee effective defence against aggression by the Russian Federation.

It is quite possible that Putin's biggest mistake in the ominous strategy of restoring Russia's global dominance was to abandon plans to attack Estonia in 2014 and, instead, to attack Ukraine.

A year ago, the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaia Kallas, publicly expressed her fear that, in the event of an attack by Moscow, her state and nation could be wiped off the face of the earth. She criticized the weakness of NATO's defense plan, which allowed for the possibility of months-long occupation by Russian troops of the captured territories, and warned that the bloc's existing military forces in the region would be destroyed by the prevailing forces of the aggressor.

Since Prime Minister Callas' statement, NATO has taken a number of decisions to strengthen military capabilities to repel a possible attack on the eastern flank. However, the actions of the alliance also showed a limited ability to fight a war of similar intensity to the one that is scorching Ukrainian land. We have heard enough scandals about the inadequate state of the national armies as a consequence of chronic underfunding, especially in European members.

Perhaps NATO's greatest vulnerability is its limited ability to take decisive action. The manifestly weak and chronically late response to the depraved brutality of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine showed how strongly NATO's actions are guided by the position of avoiding confrontation with Moscow at all costs.

Some would argue that NATO’s hesitance can be explained by the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Rather the opposite is true - Western politicians are hiding behind NATO, as if behind a screen of justification that relieves them of their responsibility to fight Russia. It was not the lack of Ukraine's membership in NATO that stood in the way of the sale of weapons to Kyiv, or the introduction of the effective sanctions against Russia in the period of 2014-2022. Ukraine still does not have membership, but since 2022 has received modern military equipment. Sanctions were also finally increased to the extent that they start to bite Russia.

The alliance’s reluctance understandably worries the countries of the eastern flank, regardless of any assurances from Washington. If the genocidal nature of the Russian war against Ukraine can be ignored; if nuclear terrorism can be tolerated; if intentional man-made technological catastrophe can be left without response, then where should the confidence come from? Why should the “smaller” NATO countries assume that their territorial integrity will not be sacrificed to "avoid a global nuclear holocaust", or any other serious reason? So, it can be expected that, especially in the capitals of the Baltic states and Warsaw, that the Ukrainian initiative will be perceived as a powerful assurance that will encourage the entire alliance to act decisively.

Leadership of courage

With many reservations, Ukraine’s security guarantees for partner countries can be called "self-integration" into NATO. Ukraine’s stance will convince the West that joining NATO is not just an attempt to hide under the umbrella of protection at the expense of increasing risks for Western societies, but also that Ukraine is prepared to fight for NATO nations when the time comes. After all, joining NATO means not only receiving protection from the defensive bloc, but also the commitment to protect allies. If citizens of NATO countries are to make sacrifices for protecting Ukraine, then Ukrainians have to be ready to fight for security of future allies.

Many would rightfully note that Ukrainians are already sacrificing all they have to protect the world from the tyrannical Russian state. Regretfully, the collective West does not consider Ukraine’s war its own, otherwise NATO soldiers would be standing arm-in-arm with the Ukrainians on the battlefield. There are too many in the West who prefer to pretend that what is happening is just an ordinary territorial conflict between two neighbours with conflicting claims which will not have far-reaching consequences for the security of Western nations. The West does not perceive Putin as the Hitler of the twenty-first century, and is not willing to fight Russism as the modern day incarnation of Nazism.

Consequently, the majority in the West perceives the issue of Ukraine's NATO membership one-dimensionally, where the West acts as a provider of security and bears the burden of costs and the ensuing unnecessary high risks, while Ukraine is exclusively a beneficiary.

This paradigm, however, distorts the realities of international security. Ukraine, at the cost of the epic heroism and the tragic suffering of its people, became a shield for humanity from the greatest threat since the Second World War — the aggressive, revanchist, and Russist regime of the Russian Federation. Ukraine's contribution to world security is, without exaggeration, monumental: it is Ukrainians who are fighting against the Moscow’s direct attack against the rules-based international order. The West has a leading role in this order - it is also its main beneficiary, because the economic well-being of the West over the past eight decades would not have been possible without security stability. Moreover, it is NATO's Strategic Concept that defines Russia as "the most significant direct threat to security, peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic space."

Western societies need to understand that Ukraine's military prowess and determination to fight a larger nuclear-armed enemy make it a tremendous asset to NATO. Security guarantees from Ukraine would emphasize that it is fighting not only for its own existence and freedom, but for universal principles and the peace and security of other nations.

Ukraine’s initiative will improve Ukraine’s bilateral relations with NATO countries in general. Kyiv's diplomatic gesture will demonstratively consolidate Ukraine's leadership role in the region. As to the coverage of the Ukrainian security guarantees, the entire eastern flank of NATO should be considered: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgary and Romania. It is quite pertinent to include on this list Moldova as well. The pro-Western course of Chisinau can be maintained only under conditions of security, and only the western orientation of Moldova provides additional security for Ukraine.

The Ukrainian security guarantees will also be a reflection of gratitude to the societies of those countries that support Ukraine with full devotion, and crucially, advocate for Ukraine’s NATO membership. These societies recognize that Ukraine's membership will have an immeasurable impact on ensuring long-term security on the European continent. Ukrainian guarantees will arm the country’s advocates with additional powerful arguments to persuade the rest of NATO about the need for urgent invitation of Ukraine to join the alliance.

Ambitions must be backed by bold actions. After the Orange revolution in 2004, Ukraine under President Victor Yushchenko, unilaterally removed the visa requirements for citizens of Western countries. That diplomatic move opened Ukraine to the West and helped Kyiv on it European integration path. Today, Ukraine’s courage to do the impossible by unilateral security guarantees to NATO countries could become the key to finally unlock NATO’s doors.

The authors have led a years long international public advocacy campaign “Truth for Peace,” calling for recognizing Russia as the aggressor state waging unlawful interstate war against Ukraine since 2014, and designating Russia as a rogue state and a state sponsor of terrorism.

Read this article in russian and Ukrainian.

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