Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Friday local time he would pursue fast-track NATO membership, yet the application failed to draw enthusiasm from the US. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan articulated that it was “not the right time” for Ukraine’s admission to the alliance and the application “should be taken up at a different time.” His underlying message was: The US does not need Ukraine as a NATO member, but needs Ukraine, rather than the whole of NATO, to fight against Russia.
To make his message clearer, Sullivan continued that he believed the best way to help Ukraine is to provide practical assistance “on the ground.” On Saturday, Zelensky thanked US President Joe Biden for signing a bill that will provide more than $12 billion in additional funding for Ukraine.
The US won’t cease sending strategic assistance to Ukraine. But whether or not to soon absorb the country into NATO is another story. The value of Ukraine as a pawn has not yet been fully exploited by the US. Before Russia is exhausted by the war, the US will have no appetite to end the crisis, or stop taking advantage of Ukraine.
All Washington cares about is its security architecture built in Europe in the 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Clues can be found that when everyone is led to believe the NATO and Ukraine are strong partners, Ukraine is the one that literally keeps bleeding.
If now is not the “right time” to consider Ukraine’s NATO membership, when will the appropriate time be? NATO has its criteria for those who apply for membership, including the clause that candidates must pursue the peaceful settlement of territorial and ethnic disputes. But Ukraine has been trapped in an ethnic conflict for a long time at home. Worse still, it is now in a war.
It would also be naïve to believe that the right timing will come after the end of the war. Despite the war being highly unlikely to end any time soon, NATO has a clear standard when it comes to expansion – to gain more advantage, rather than taking on a burden. Only when Ukraine develops itself into a stable and prosperous country without conflict both at home and broad will it be the realistic timing for it to become a NATO member.
On the other hand, observers also note that there is another scenario in which NATO could grant Ukraine the NATO membership in a fast-track manner. If a war breaks out between Russia and NATO, the latter may soon take in countries that could fight Russia on the frontline. Again, it is all about whether the US can make use of Ukraine. This is a scenario with very little chance of occurring. But once it does take place, all European countries will tremble under the shadow of a possible nuclear war. In that case, there will be no security for anyone, not for Ukraine, and not for the world.
Instead of pursuing resolutions to end the conflict, Washington has, over and over again, displayed that the US is charging toward the other direction – fanning the flames of war.
“America’s fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory. Every single inch,” Biden said on Friday. Apparently he did not realize the irony when he stressed “every inch.” It only reminds people of the pledge then US secretary of state James Baker made to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – NATO will move not one inch eastward.
Just as a reminder, Biden’s tough stance has nothing to do with Ukraine. He was talking about NATO’s territory. And Ukraine’s latest application to become a NATO member in a fast-track manner has just been declined. That being said, Biden’s rhetoric is about ensuring that the conflict burns longer on the European continent to make the US the ultimate winner. As for Ukraine, Washington keeps signaling that the US has offered weapons and assistance, and it is Ukraine that must fight to the end.
Whether the conflict will spiral out of control is everyone’s concern. For Ukraine, it may believe its way out is joining NATO. “We are de facto allies… Ukraine is applying to make it de jure,” Zelensky said. But the US does not think so. It just wants Ukraine to be de facto bullet bait, period.