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Don’t Let Ukraine Into NATO or a ‘NATO-Plus’

Maj. Barak Amundson and 1st Lt. Matthew Scott, 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots, fly over Lithuania during a training mission with the Lithuanian air force April 23, 2014. The 48th Air Expeditionary Group has been conducting the Baltic Air Policing mission here since January and will be handing over the mission to the Polish air force at the beginning of May. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler/Released)

The U.S. Should not Bring Ukraine into NATO by Whatever Name – With war still raging between Russia and Ukraine, Kyiv is looking for future military allies. “We are working to ensure that the strongest subjects of the free world become guarantors of the security of our state,” declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week.

But that is just Kyiv’s interim goal. Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office, urged the creation of what he called the Kyiv Security Compact until NATO membership is granted. He explained: “In order to successfully implement these tasks, Ukraine must get a guaranteed safety after the war. This means that we should receive reliable international security guarantees for the time period until Ukraine becomes a full member of the EU and NATO.”

Along with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, fellow co-chair of the Working Group On International Security Guarantees for Ukraine, Yermak released a detailed plan to create the equivalent of NATO membership until the real deal was available. The report explained: “Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO and benefit from its mutual defense arrangements is safeguarded in its Constitution. This aspiration is the sovereign decision of Ukraine. In the interim period Ukraine needs iron-clad security guarantees. These will come predominantly—though not exclusively—from NATO countries.”

The interim actually sounds like NATO-plus, with Kyiv, not its guarantors, setting policy. The paper envisions “a multi-decade effort of sustained investment in Ukraine’s defense industrial base, scalable weapons transfers and intelligence support from allies, intensive training missions and joint exercises under the European Union and NATO flags.” Moreover, the allies, starting with the US but reaching Turkey and even Australia, would make “a range of commitments” that would “be binding based on bilateral agreements, but brought together under a joint strategic partnership document—called the Kyiv Security Compact.” Indeed, leaving this pact to join the transatlantic alliance might be a step-down.

Ukraine’s desire for protection by America and the others is not new. In 2008 the George W. Bush administration, fresh from its catastrophic invasion of Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, went looking for other wars to fight. The administration debated intervening in the short-lived Russo-Georgia war, triggered by Georgian attacks on Russian troops in the breakaway territory of South Ossetia. This deranged proposal likely would have resulted in war with Moscow. Thankfully, good sense prevailed. However, Washington still pushed NATO into promising eventual membership to Ukraine and Georgia, even though the Europeans made clear their final approval would not be forthcoming.

After the Bush administration mercifully faded into history, US backing for bringing the two states in NATO ended. But rather than level with Kyiv and Tbilisi, admitting that there was no desire in America or Europe to defend either country, allied officials consistently lied, routinely proclaiming how anxious they were to welcome the two states into the transatlantic alliance as soon as membership criteria were met, which, however, would be never. Leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February the US and other NATO members repeated the same deceitful refrain.

Allied governments understood that the purpose of NATO was to defend their peoples, not offer military charity to security supplicants. Neither Georgia nor Ukraine was vital for America’s or Europe’s defense. And, as events proved, adding them would risk war. Both mattered greatly to Russia. Indeed, inducting them would be the final violation of multiple pledges made to the governments of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin that the alliance would not expand to Russia’s borders.

Just as NATO refused to add them before the Russian invasion, no member of the alliance intervened afterwards on Ukraine’s behalf. This highlighted the West’s persistent dishonesty toward Ukraine, especially after the West’s reckless, dishonest policies toward Russia helped bring on the conflict. Surely if the allies were just waiting for the right moment to admit Ukraine, which would mean being willing to fight for the Ukrainian people, NATO should have acted to stop Moscow’s criminal invasion. Why didn’t the alliance intervene directly? Because its members recognized that going to war with Russia over Kyiv was not in their interest.

If the NATO members don’t believe that Ukraine is worth war when it is under attack, with its very independence being threatened, cities being ravaged, and people being driven from their homes, why would the US or Europe commit to fight on Kyiv’s behalf in the future? Especially since the allies have found the perfect solution: aid Ukraine in fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian. The US and Europeans are getting everything they want and more—preserving Kyiv as a quasi-ally and weakening Moscow as a potential adversary—without losing a single soldier or civilian.

Staying out of the war is particularly important now. In light of Ukraine’s successful counterattack near Kharkiv, Zelensky talked grandly about retaking Crimea. The Putin government responded with its own escalation. President Vladimir Putin declared a “partial mobilization,” called up reservists, and threatened to “use all the means at our disposal,” assumed to include nuclear weapons, to defend Russia. No NATO member wants to be involved if both sides are raising the stakes.

If the allies won’t join in now, however, why would they support the Kyiv Security Compact in the future?

That goes double for the American people. Although Washington is filled with warrior wannabes ever ready to send other people off to fight and die, there is little popular support to add Ukraine to America’s lengthy list of defense dependents, whose main role is to agree to be defended. Even now, with the Europeans talking about doing more, the Biden administration is adding US reinforcements to Europe, diminishing pressure on other members to act. By the time the war concludes, European NATO members are likely to return to business as usual, effectively leaving their defense to Washington.

Which is another reason for the US to reject proposals to add Ukraine to NATO, or a NATO look-alike, in the future. Americans don’t want to join the Russo-Ukraine killfest. They even question the current level of US military assistance, believing it should not outpace that provided by the Europeans, who have so much more at stake while doing so little to defend themselves. Washington should finally begin emphasizing the interests of Americans over that of foreign states.

NATO M1 Abrams in Poland

U.S. Army M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank variation fires at a target at Bucierz Range at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, August 11, 2020. DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives. In response to COVID-19, DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in size and scope. Phase I of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20 was linked to exercise Allied Spirit, which took place at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, June 5-19 with approximately 6,000 U.S. and Polish Soldiers. In phase II of the modified DEFENDER-Europe 20, a U.S.-based combined arms battalion will conduct an emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to Europe July 14-Aug. 22.

The Ukrainian people are stuck in a bad neighborhood. But the US government’s chief responsibility is to the American people, which means keeping them out of unnecessary wars involving interests that are not critical. As in Ukraine. US officials also should level with the Zelensky government. Whatever the outcome of the current conflict, there should be no Kyiv Security Compact or its equivalent. If war breaks out again, the Yanks still won’t be coming.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times. Bandow speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. Bandow has been a regular commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. He holds a JD from Stanford University.

Written By

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times.



  1. xheavy

    September 21, 2022 at 7:17 pm

    It does not matter anymore.

    If everyone in the NATO and the USA truly believed that Ukraine must never be NATO or NATO Plus, lite etc. they would have never shipped one bullet, missile, bomb, beans or anything to Ukraine. Nothing.

    They would have been absorbed into Russia by now. We would not have depleted our weapons needed to ensure security in future war with Russia.

    Not that there is any security to be found at all against a crazed Putin with hundreds of nuclear missile trucks scattered across the forests of his vast Land.

    In some ways I am glad for the UKR war. It solved some questions, provided hard answers and revealed certain now known truths. RU can still absorb UKR… but from the looks of their Citizens handing over 10,000 (In US dollars) cash to get out of the place as of today or be rounded up in buses for protesting the mobilization decree etc…

    with love from Russia. MWAH. Its really painful when someone cares and loves you enough to do the things they do that hurt them more than it does you.

  2. Walker

    September 21, 2022 at 9:31 pm

    So the authors point is why we would protect Ukraine after a war but not now. That is vey simple and it really shows that the author is basically too stupid to have written any article at all.

    War is on, joining a pact won’t change Russian calculus. However once war is over, starting a war knowing that it would be against all of NATO is a completely new calculus. It is unlikely that Russia would start a war knowing that it would involve all of Europe and the US. Knowing that it had trouble against Ukraine alone. NATO is and always has been a peace organization that relies on deterrence through strength. Members are not required to support countries that start wars but only countries that are attacked. This means if Ukraine is serious about wanting protection and peace. They are a good fit for NATO. Screw Russia for thinking it should be able to dictate the diplomatic situation of its neighbors. And screw people like this pundit that thinks Russia should be given any special treatment. Peace in Ukraine benefits the world and that is what Ukraine in NATO means.

    Now I probably should have put this all much more tactfully, but I don’t regret it at all. I’m sick of having supposed experts saying blatantly stupid things.

  3. 403Forbidden

    September 21, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    Stoltenberg and co not only want ukraine into NATO but also entities further eastward, including georgia.

    Further afield, they intend to form an ‘eastern branch’ of NATO to foment war with, who else, china.

    Ukraine into NATO is a given. Stoltenberg has said current phase of fighting is decisive and when it ends, kyiv will form NATO’s eastern salient into russia.

    The only way to put a dent into NATO’s ambitions is by hurling a coupla tactical nukes at ukro forces crossing Oskil river.

    One or two mini mushroom clouds will scare the hell out of stoltenberg cuz next in line could well be oslo.

  4. Yrral

    September 21, 2022 at 11:46 pm

    US military service people are killing themselves at record numbers,the US government can find billions of dollars,to aid Ukraine,while cutting back on VA service for soldiers in distress, people who served their country, should get consideration before Ukrainain,this war itself is probably trigger flashbacks from past theater of war they served in maybe if American supported them they would not have to take a drastic way out through suicide Google US Military Service Suicide Rate

  5. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    September 22, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Ukraine being in NATO would unquestionably be a hard red line for Vlad.

  6. Yrral

    September 22, 2022 at 1:00 am

    European are begging Chinese to intervene on their behalf, because they know that thier economy is getting ready crater, Germany is having to shut down,one of their biggest steel mill Google Ukrinform

  7. GhostTomahawk

    September 22, 2022 at 1:17 am

    If Ukraine was serious about their own security they would not have made themselves into a hot bed of western kleptocrat corruption. Their land is rich with resources and they’re a flat poor country. When looking around the globe and seeing other resource rich places and see poor people abound…. you find… western kleptocrats and corruption.

    Screw Ukraine. Walk away. Better yet. Take only money from those who support this idiocy and have THEM fund the arms sent there. I’m done with proxy wars. I didn’t vote for this. We need to stop these things from happening. You want it… you fund it and put it on YOUR kids debt bill.

  8. John

    September 22, 2022 at 1:38 am

    Diatribe which makes the similar, and equally foul smelling, remarks and actions of the obama administration in response to Putin’s occupation of the Crimea, fragrant. Putin won’t stop until he recreates the Soviet Union. He must be stopped now. We now have a friend and ally in Ukriane. Right in Putin’s back yard. It is indeed in our interest to support Ukraine now, and through their joining NATO.

  9. Arash P

    September 22, 2022 at 1:55 am

    At last, some sober look at Ukraine situation.

    “Washington is filled with warrior wannabes ever ready to send other people off to fight and die”

    Author hits the nail in the head with that phrase. Same goes for Taiwan too. I have lived many years in the US. I’m yet to come across a single American who is willing to die for Taiwan!

  10. marcjf

    September 22, 2022 at 2:23 am

    In my opinion Russia is not minded to lose this war so will do what is necessary to win it. Winning means forcing the Zelinsky regime into a humiliating climb down. The annexation (or whatever) of valuable real estate and the dismantling of the UAF. It means throwing NATO advisors and weapons out of the Ukraine, or at least those parts which endanger Russia. It means reducing Ukraine to a failed state most likely, but also dividing the European members of NATO from the USA by creating long term and serious economic damage, possibly accompanied by a wave of refugees.

    It is clear that Russia thinks we have pushed them into a corner with no way out but to win or lose. Our politicians talk of destroying Russia as a power and of regime change. No one is talking about a peace that addresses Russia’s often stated security concerns.

    I don’t think these were the original Russian war aims but the very robust response from the West – equally a miscalculation by 8D chess playing Putin (sarc)– has caused them to reassess. Everyone seems to be doubling down on continued fighting. The UAF cannot be demolished without a serious fight and Russia now recognises this. War aims tend to become extended once the bullets fly.

    I’m guessing after the mud season when everyone draws breath, the fighting will start in earnest again, and on a much bigger scale. And if 300,000 is not enough, expect some more.

    The risk here is that if the UAF crumbles – and the balance of power has always suggested that it will in the end – NATO chooses to get directly involved. And in that way lies MADness.

  11. MortenHJ

    September 22, 2022 at 2:42 am

    “Indeed, inducting them would be the final violation of multiple pledges made to the governments of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin that the alliance would not expand to Russia’s borders” – isn’t that exactly what Putin is trying to do? – Extending Russias borders to Nato’s thhrough annexing Ukraine?

  12. jack Dunster

    September 22, 2022 at 5:26 am

    people like you – an appeaser, an American firster – were the reasons for the US delay in World War 2.. They were wrong then, you are wrong now. it’s sad that such people as you have influence in this world. People like you are the reason for the rise of Hitler, and of Putin.. and for the deaths and destruction they cause.

  13. Tallifer

    September 22, 2022 at 6:16 am

    The purpose of Ukrainian membership in NATO would not be to win a war against Russia, it would be to prevent one. Russia attacked the Ukraine because it was not inside NATO; Russia has just as many casus belli against and interests in any one of the tiny Baltic republics, but she has never dared to invade them, because they are defended by NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance to prevent wars against its members.

  14. Kelvin Clarke

    September 22, 2022 at 7:11 am

    Ukraine is not, and will never be, a security dependency for the United States or her Allies. The current expenditure for the USA in Ukraine at $25 billion is 0.3% of the $7 trillion of the War on Terror, or 1.5% of the $1.7 trillion for the F35 programme. There are no US casualties and no likelihood of US casualties.
    For next to no cost, the USA and her Allies, can secure their border with the only European military risk, Russia. By including victorious Ukraine in the post-war security pact, Russian claims of a contested Zone of Influence are extinguished. Because, whereas Russia aided by her Soviet Republic forces and Warsaw Pact minions held constant threat of annihilation over Western Europe, naked Russia will never be strong enough again to threaten Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine, or even the Caucasian States if there is a complete security pact. It has always been the fear of NATO that has drawn the line on Russian aggression.
    What the author of the article ignores, is that all of these countries are fanatical natural Allies of the West, and because of the support given to Ukraine, the USA in particular. Self-satisfied German Social Democrats might parasitise American security while prostituting themselves for Russian gas, but the Eastern Europeans love America for providing the means for their own survival (without cost in American lives).
    An enduring alliance across Europe, including Ukraine, is checkmate for Russian Imperialism. It neutralises the strategic threat from a hostile power that would love to destroy European and American (and her World Allies) culture and power. It is an efficient and cost-effective solution to one arm of the strategic challenge posed by our two autocratic enemies.
    And aiding the Ukrainians in their fight against an army of rapists, torturers, child abductors, and genocidal butchers is unequivocally good.
    Glory to Ukraine, and Glory to America.

  15. Gary Jacobs

    September 22, 2022 at 10:08 am

    %100 agree with Kelvin Clarke.

    The Kremlin troll farm came out in force on this one… but Kelvin wins, hands down. Although at this point I’m not even sure Ukraine needs NATO as long as there continues to be this type of coalition of the willing to provide aid to Ukraine so they can defend themselves.

  16. Longo

    September 22, 2022 at 10:11 am

    The author’s lack of military knowledge shows. The war has started, we are committed now, and military victory is nothing to apologize for.

  17. TheWoodsman

    September 22, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    Or rather, put it to the “Gates” test, as outlined in former SecDef Robert Gate’s book: “can I look the soldier’s mother’s in the eye and tell her that the people of (insert former Soviet Block Country here: Georgia/Ukraine/Croatia, etc) were worth dying for?” Gates didn’t think so.
    Most Americans would agree Western Europe is worth defending with our blood. Eastern Europe? I think you get a “Meh…” from most Americans.
    Fortunately for us in the current situation the Ukrainians are more than willing to spill their own blood for their Liberty, which makes it an easier case to back them in any way we can, short of pulling triggers ourselves.

  18. Luis Espinal

    September 22, 2022 at 3:53 pm

    The interests of the American people lie in helping and protecting Ukraine.

    Enough with this Chamberlainian nonsense.

  19. cobo

    September 22, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    The next generation of NATO trainers will be Ukrainians. Perhaps the next generation of NATO leaders will be Eastern Europeans.

  20. Frank Martin

    September 23, 2022 at 1:52 am

    NATO needs to be disbanded. The US MILIND Complex needs to be neutered. This vet, son of a vet, father of a vet, is done with endless wars. On the heels of a totally misbegotten war in Afghanistan, where we left a la Saigon, now this? I’ve already started deprogramming my family. My grandson will not serve our corrupt government under either party. Unless our shores are being invaded, my family is done.

  21. Rusnet

    September 23, 2022 at 1:54 am

    This guy repeats word by word Russian propaganda. I am currious how much Russians paid him for this article.

  22. Tamerlane

    September 23, 2022 at 1:57 am

    Gary/Tallifer/Clarke/Luis—Russia attacked the Ukraine because it was clear in its intent to enter an anti-Russian alliance-NATO and bring American forces to yet another Russian border. Russia has signaled for 20 odd years they would take action to prevent this from occurring, and they have repeatedly emphasized at all levels, including those not aligned with Putin in Russia, that such an entry into an anti-Russian alliance would be unacceptable to Russian defensive interests. Whether this is true or not (the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate a Chinese led anti-American alliance entering Mexico on our border) is irrelevant to this discussion. What is relevant is whether the Russians (including but not limited to Putin) really believe this. Their actions say they do, and it isn’t Chamberlain-esque to believe someone when they show you what they believe. I have little interest in seeing the United States drawn into an escalation into potentially nuclear war over what to us here is a non-existential interest but which to Russia is existential. Why do you doubt Putin isn’t willing to escalate all the way conventionally or to use nukes? He seems to be quite determined here, and if he did use nukes on Ukraine, what then? Would they not have to surrender? Japan absorbed one, but two broke their will.

    Longo—victory? What victory? A localized counter-offensive? This armchair crowing won’t change fundamentals on the ground which favor Russia conventionally no matter how much arms we send. We aren’t going to go to war over a non-ally in a regional conflict. Nor should we. The last 22 years of military interventions for moral crusades have taught you nothing.

  23. Gary Jacobs

    September 23, 2022 at 9:27 am


    This tired old argument has been spewed and failed over and over. There were plenty of restrictions on NATO activity in the Baltics and other Eastern EU countries that joined NATO precisely so Russia would *not feel threatened.

    The US pulled its last tanks out of Europe in 2013, and about a year later Putin invaded Ukraine. So far from feeling threatened, it was precisely when NATO was looking the other way with Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ [to focus on China] and combat in Afghanistan…that’s when Putin made his 1st move into Ukraine in 2014. Not to mention exerting pressure on Ukraine’s president to not sign an economic deal with EU and instead sign one with Russia. And considering Russia had already poisoned one Ukrainian Presidential candidate in 2004, it’s a bit understandable their President in 2014 didnt want to end up with Russian Dioxin in his system.

    This time was not much different. The US was distracted by Afghanistan and China. Putin sensed weakness after how stupid the US handled pulling out of Afghanistan, and Putin mistook that mistake by the US and NATO for overall weakness. He was wrong.

    Let’s also not forget Biden lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 in an effort to appease Russia, and he was willing to make other concessions if Putin did not invade. Again, signalling weakness from the US and NATO is exactly when Putin wants to strike.

    I could go through a list of another dozen or so reasons why your argument is flimsy at best. But for now I digress.

  24. cobo

    September 23, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    Arash P

    “No Bastard Ever Won a War by Dying for His Country” or any country. “Patton urged his soldiers to do their duty regardless of personal fear, and he exhorted them to aggressiveness and constant offensive action.” Coming to the war theater near you.

  25. Robot on Drugs

    September 24, 2022 at 4:26 pm

    This is absolute garbage. Can the people who run this site PLEASE stop letting these insane “journalists” get more clout by allowing their “work” to be published on this site.

    I get that this site posts pretty much any opinion piece on anything regarding war and geopolitics but this is one of the more thinly veiled “Everything wrong in the world is America’s fault” pieces i’ve seen on here.

    Is it that hard to require at least a SEMBLANCE of impartiality or journalistic integrity? This reads like a piece of Russian or Chinese propaganda using only partial truths to construct a grand lie.

  26. Robot on Drugs

    September 24, 2022 at 4:55 pm


    Your comment is complete nonsense my friend.

    Ukraine is dirt poor because of former Soviet corruption led to criminal privatization to a few wealthy oligarchs that controlled key industries. Not only this but Russian loyal diplomats, oligarchs, politicians continued to work against Ukraine’s interest inside of Ukraine itself for 20+ years and still to some level today. Not only that but most of Ukraine’s industry infrastructure and industry itself was entirely interconnected and dependent on multiple now independent former Soviet republics… And this connectivity that was severed during independence was much worse for Ukraine than any other Soviet republic, as was the divide in it’s lingual and ethnic demographics.

    Much of Ukraine’s natural resources have gone untapped because 1.Ukraine was too poor and too corrupt to install the infrastructure for extraction, processing and transporting for exportation.
    2. Most of Ukraine’s most valuable resources as the same resources that are Russia’s most vital. The vast oil and gas reserves that have been found in central and eastern Ukraine would bring Kyiv a lot of money but since their natural customers, especially for gas, would be Europe, this becomes a major provocation to Russia despite it being Ukraine’s own resources and therefore they should be able to use this to bring wealth to the country. The same goes for the uranium deposits among others.
    3. Lack of foreign investment which is closely interconnected with number two. Most foreign countries and industries are all either directly buying these resources from Russia or are partners with Russia(China) and would rather not ruin that relationship. The West could have already had pipelines being dug from Ukraine to Europe and LNG sites being created but they haven’t because of Russia.

    It isn’t western corruption that has kept Ukraine down, it’s Russian and Ukrainian corruption and the shadow of Russia handcuffing their geopolitical and economic freedom.

  27. abramawicz

    September 26, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    “Ukraine into NATO is a given. Stoltenberg has said current phase of fighting is decisive and when it ends, kyiv will form NATO’s eastern salient into russia.”

    Stoltenberg said Ukraine would be admitted “into NATO” when the “fighting…ends”? Link?

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