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Putin’s Greatest Fear Is Coming True: Ukraine Applies to Join NATO

F-15 NATO
F-15 fighter. Image: Creative Commons.

What Ukraine’s NATO Application Means for the War: In response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Friday announcement that he will annex four regions of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that his country was officially applying for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In a video recorded outside of his presidential office in Kyiv, Zelenskyy said that he made the decision to protect all Ukrainians in the face of Russian aggression. The Ukrainian president also promised that the application would move ahead in an “expedited manner.”

The controversial decision is not likely to deter Russia, however, given that NATO’s eastward expansion was one of the primary reasons Putin announced his war in Ukraine – or, at least, it was one of the excuses the Russian president used to launch a military campaign and claim Ukrainian territory as Russian.

“De Facto” Members Already

In the video recorded outside of his office, the Ukrainian president claimed that his country was already a de facto member of NATO, citing the overwhelming support received from NATO countries in the form of sanctions, financial aid, and the supply of military equipment and weapons.

“De facto, we have already made our way to Nato. De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards. They are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” Zelenskyy said. “We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other. This is the alliance. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.”

Zelenskyy’s comments and actions this week, however, contradict comments made earlier in the year. In March, Zelenskyy recognized that Ukraine was not likely to be accepted as a member of NATO.

“It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand that. We are adequate people,” Zelenskyy said during a meeting with leaders of the Joint Expeditionary force.

“For years, we have heard about the supposedly open door, but we have also heard that we should not enter, and this is true and we must admit it,” Zelenskyy continued, referencing his country’s effort to join NATO that was launched back in 2008.

Are Negotiations Now Impossible?

The impact of Ukraine joining NATO would not be insignificant, which is why Zelenskyy is applying for membership.

If Ukraine were immediately accepted as a member of the international alliance, which is unlikely to happen, it could immediately launch the world into a third world war. NATO member states would be required to defend Ukrainian territory from Russia, a non-NATO aggressor. For Kyiv, it wouldn’t change much. Ukraine is already at war and depends entirely on the support of NATO allies. An escalation for Ukraine could only be beneficial, though there would, of course, be a risk of nuclear conflict.

For NATO, however, an escalation would cause disruption and bloodshed across the West. A war with Russia may already be on the cards, but NATO membership for Ukraine would guarantee it.

NATO allies now also face the difficult task of navigating the application in a way that doesn’t anger cause Russia to escalate the conflict. Failure to reject Ukraine’s application in a timely manner could anger Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly cited NATO’s eastward expansion as a reason for launching his “special military operation” in the first place.

Zelenskyy’s application may have also potentially ended any possibility of negotiations bringing the conflict to an end, with Russia demanding full control over Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk, and Ukraine vowing to continue fighting – using NATO resources – for every inch of Ukrainian territory.

NATO member or not, Zelenskyy’s actions this week are a pivotal moment in this conflict and could be a sign that it cannot be brought to an end through diplomacy.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Friend

    October 1, 2022 at 10:15 am

    NATO is like an anti virus security suite. It’s expensive, it takes resources, it’s bloatware, and while it’s meant to make you feel safe, it can’t deal with any threats by itself. It requires to be installed on a disinfected, clean system and constantly updated.
    It produces a lot of false positives, etc. NATO won’t admit Ukraine out of fear that it thus might be attacking Russia. On Ukraine’s land. It’s beyond laughable.
    Ukraine will be admitted once that NATO becomes unnecessary that is, once Ukraine have expelled the occupiers by themselves first.

    The one thing that could be done right now is to divert each country’s NATO budget towards arming Ukraine instead. They would have to be mad to think that 2% of the GDP would be sufficient to protect the members from other simultaneous hypothetical invasions anyway. This is it, this is where the 30×2% must go right now.

  2. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    October 1, 2022 at 1:47 pm

    This will not happen as Russia would consider it a redline, and Ukraine brings absolutely nothing to the table save for being next to Russia.

  3. marcjf

    October 1, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Well legally a country at war cannot join NATO, but who really cares about the lawyers…

    I think it was Monty, the big pal of Patton, who once said:

    Rule 1 – Never Invade Russia
    Rule 2 – Especially in the winter

    NATO is really going to put “boots on the ground” – now?

    NATO is in effect an active participant in this war providing Ukraine with money, aid, weapons, intelligence, training.supplies etc etc. And the odd pipeline or two gets disabled. But actually enganging troops/planes/ships etc? I don’t know.

    Everytime this has been gamed we all went MAD. So I hope not.

    However everyone seems to be raising the ante just now. But I maintain this is a war of choice for NATO and an existential struggle for Russia. So in my view that will not back down. And I still don’t see what vital interests we have in Ukraine.

  4. Quartermaster

    October 2, 2022 at 10:09 am

    It’s a war of choice for Putin. There was no reason to invade. His casus belli were simply transparent lies.

    Russian incompetence is the more likely reason the pipelines have been destroyed.

  5. Tamerlane

    October 3, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    Quartermaster:

    That’s ludicrous. Of course there was a reason to invade, just as there would be if Mexico joined a Chinese military alliance on our border. It’s called “existential national interest”.

    Incompetence? Who are you, it’s crystal clear that the United States or another member of NATO blew up the Russian pipelines. Russia gains precisely nothing from blowing the pipelines—the U.S., however, gains tremendously.

    Friend: “The one thing that could be done right now is to divert each country’s NATO budget towards arming Ukraine instead. They would have to be mad to think that 2% of the GDP would be sufficient to protect the members from other simultaneous hypothetical invasions anyway. This is it, this is where the 30×2% must go right now.”

    Why the holy hell would we spend our budgets to arm a non-ally proxy like Ukraine over our own defense? Is there some hidden constitutional clause which says we are to strip our own defenses to arm a foreign non-ally? Why on God’s earth do you want WWIII? You must be a Ukrainian to suggest such imbecility. Do you have that much a hard-on for a billion deaths? Ukraine isn’t an ally of the United States. Even were it, we should never compromise our own defenses to expend our budget—taken from our taxpayers for our own defense, to defend another country. Our own defense comes first.

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