NATO Recommitting their original sin toward Kyiv, in Bucharest in 2008


At that time, Russian President Vladimir Putin already fantasized about restoring his country to tsarist and Soviet greatness but had not yet broken openly with the West. 

Reading the man and the moment wrong, US President George W. Bush decided to invite Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. 

American scholars in the realist tradition thought this was a big mistake, as did NATO leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany or Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

In a disastrous compromise, the Bucharest summit ended with a declaration that “these countries will become members of NATO,” but didn’t specify a timeline. 

While Kyiv’s membership was never really on the menu, though, Putin and his minions still used the Bucharest offer to spin a toxic narrative about a perennially hostile West encroaching on the “Russian world,” which to them includes Ukraine. 

Ukraine was neither in nor out, as it has been ever since.

When the Ukrainians in 2014 sought to join that West (via the European Union rather than NATO), Putin struck, annexing Crimea and infiltrating the Donbas. 

When the same West failed to punish him in any way that hurt, he started making plans to grab all of Ukraine in 2022.

Don’t argue about the kinds of tanks, planes or missiles. Instead, send all the weapons you can spare, and then build many more and send those too.

The other choice is that vexed question about NATO membership.

The purpose of NATO is to deter major-power war by vowing to defend any and all member states with all means, up to and including nukes. 

To remain credible that vow has to be binary — you’re all in or all out — and unconditional: An attack against you is an attack against me.

The correct communique would simply say two things: Sorry, Ukraine, we can’t defend you. But we’ll give you everything you need — and much more than we’ve given so far — so that you can beat Putin on your own.

Andreas Kluth Bloomberg 10 July 2024


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