Why NATO Sold Out Ukraine
NATO’s cruel but entirely predictable betrayal of Ukraine should be the final nail in the obsolete, America-dependent alliance’s coffin.
After twenty years of failing alongside America in Afghanistan, NATO has more than outlived its purpose. Ever since the end of the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact meant NATO’s mission to protect Europe from Soviet domination was obsolete, this ridiculous bureaucracy has been desperately searching for a new mission.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has sparked new hope among the ranks of the NATO boosters who dream of having a reason for still existing. Even as the risk of a devastating conflict risking thousands of lives grows by the hour, you can almost see the greedy glint in the gleeful eyes of the defense industry lobbyists who feast from the trough of pork fed to NATO-member military forces every year.
In Ukraine what now seems certain to happen to the poor country is a direct result of thirteen years of NATO gaslighting.
For all these years, NATO has promised Ukraine it would one day be a member of the alliance, able to benefit from the protection membership brings. Article 5 of the NATO charter declares that an attack on one is an attack on all, meaning that if Ukraine were a member of NATO right now Russia would be on the verge of going to war with half the world.
Of course, if Ukraine had been brought into NATO, Russia would never have taken Crimea or Donbas from it in the first place. There is a defined logic to hard power politics, and conflict tends to emerge along predictable contours.
But from the moment NATO membership became part of Ukraine’s future, the fate of Ukraine became bound to Russia’s sense of its own national security. In 1997, against explicit verbal promises made by America to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO expanded its membership to most of Eastern Europe.
The effect of this was a Russia uniquely vulnerable to a leader like Putin — a strongman who stays in power through proving he is tough enough to shield his people from attack. After the Soviet dissolution, the Russian economy was subjected to a kind of shock treatment by the international community meant to incorporate it into the global community but that simply led to oligarchs taking over all the productive industries.
Russia was transformed into a shriveled USSR, shorn of territories it had exploited for years. So Putin, naturally, gravitated towards rebuilding Russia’s pride, starting with its military.
Nearly twenty years later, America’s self-inflicted defeats across the world have put it — and by extension, NATO — in the most vulnerable position it has been in generations. If Putin plays his cards just right in the next few years, he could help America crack up just like the Soviet Union did.
So is it any surprise that Putin has deployed his newly rebuilt military to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, all linchpins of the old USSR’s economy? That he proclaims in a public essay that Ukraine is artificial, a creation of Poland and Lithuania, that doesn’t need Donbas?
Yes, Putin aims to put the USSR back together again if he can. And NATO is enabling him every step of the way.
How? One way is by playing this cruel game of promising Ukraine NATO membership that is never going to happen. NATO’s leaders do this knowing full well that they no longer have sufficient military power or political will to fight Russia unless and until Russia does something that triggers an Article 5 response.
Since about 2008, Russia has had local military superiority over NATO in all the countries along its periphery. The war with Georgia over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was carefully planned and deliberately executed, in part as a message to NATO.
International politics is about sending messages. Read up on diplomatic history and you can see for yourself the obsession with one great power signaling to others.
When Russia moved to seize Crimea in 2014, during a period of unrest that it feared was about to lead to a pro-US regime ruling Ukraine that would bring it closer to NATO, President Obama did nothing meaningful in response. He had good reasons, as escalating could easily have led to the total loss of Ukraine, as Putin’s seizure of Crimea and subsequent operations in Donbas showed Ukraine’s military was incapable of putting up a sustained fight.
NATO’s leadership saw Ukraine’s victimization as a golden opportunity to revitalize the alliance they’d been after since Afghanistan turned into a quagmire. Portrayals of Russia and Russians in American media had shifted through the 1990s and early 2000s from eager new capitalists to dangerous thugs, and after taking Crimea Russians became the new big-bad that gave NATO renewed purpose.
Trouble is, none of the members of NATO really want or can afford a fight with Russia — NATO has always been about defense on the cheap. That is the real reason for the nuclear sharing agreements that will allow member countries like Belgium and Turkey use American nuclear bombs in a major war. Nukes are a cost-effective deterrent against invasion — they allow for the unique possibility of a fight escalating to the point both sides’ regimes are wiped out, which means the leaders can’t just risk poor people’s lives anymore.
Of course, relying on nukes means that the American and to a large extent European military establishments has degraded conventional combat capabilities. Worse, since everyone knows all-out war is impossible, building effective equipment and training competent forces becomes a kind of game where the lack of an outcome means everyone can bluff about their true strength.
In reality, close ties between the defense industry and political leadership in America and Europe have dramatically hollowed out most real capabilities. The difficulty in organizing the evacuation of Kabul showed how badly NATO performs when pressed outside its comfort zone.
The truth is that NATO has always been an extant limb of the American military. This made sense in the Cold War, when there was a real — if overblown — threat of Warsaw Pact tanks rolling to the Rhine in a matter of days.
It made much less sense once the United States went off on its self-defeating War on Terror crusade. It makes even less sense in the 2020s when the European Union is now the world’s second largest economic bloc, capable of fielding a military as large as America’s on its own.
Europe doesn’t need an American-style, massive military — 2% of the European Union’s GDP, which is what NATO asks all members to spend on defense, is $350 billion annually. Russia’s defense spending is about a quarter of that, and even if you factor in purchasing power differences the EU would still have double the strength of Russia.
This means that if each member contributed 1% of its GDP towards common defense, and spent the other 1% on domestic security — ideally including climate adaptation work— the EU is a match for Russia. NATO, however, is in active competition with the idea of a European defense establishment, because there are only so many defense dollars to go around.
NATO also keeps the European defense industry subordinated to America’s. A perfect example of this is the fact that NATO members are basically being forced to adopt the deeply flawed F-35 fighter because it will soon be the only US export offering capable of delivering those NATO nuclear bombs. Germany is trying to get around this by buying F-18 Super Hornet and EF-18 Growler fighters used by the U.S. Navy, but countries like Norway, Netherlands, and Denmark are getting sucked into the F-35 vortex.
The real purpose of NATO is no longer European defense, but keeping Europe under the thumb of the United States. Aside from the fact America is splitting apart at the seams, this also has the effect of preventing Europe from developing an appropriate response to Russia.
American elites like having a resurgent angry Russia and big scary China to justify exorbitant, under-scrutinized military spending. They obsess over maintaining total dominance in all battlespaces even when this is impossible because they know that it pays professionally to demand more money flow to Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing, and all the rest.
But this isn’t just wasteful, it sets the entire system up for failure. America’s military prowess has never been what its boosters pretend — typically in history it sacrifices personnel on the altar of some well-connected elite’s personal ambition.
During World War Two countless Americans died because generals had idiot theories like bombers being able to withstand fighter attacks without escort, tank destroyers with no armor on their turrets — the exposed part — being ideal for fighting vastly better armed and armored German tanks, and aircraft carriers not needing armored flight decks because it was more important to be able send more aircraft at the enemy.
Take a look at any other American war and you’ll see no shortage of other stupidities. I was trained to go to Iraq riding in Humvees with armor bolted on that did basically nothing to stop IED attacks. At the start of the war, lots of Marines didn’t even have body armor issued to them. This in a country that spends more on its military than any other!
Europe deserves better than this. And Ukraine certainly does too.
It is absolutely ghoulish that American pundits and military “experts” are talking up shipments of anti-tank missiles and the possibility of supporting an insurgency in Ukraine if Russia invades. After years of promising to back Ukraine, the country has been totally hung out to dry.
Putin might launch a grand invasion, but by all appearances he’s set to play a cagier game than that. The Russian forces mobilized to Ukraine’s frontier now are about the same size as the one America sent to invade Iraq in 2003.
This is a message. Putin is playing Chess with Ukraine and America at the same time. Ukraine must be broken to send a clear message to the rest of the world that Russia’s demands must be met or there will be consequences.
Pundits in America are screaming about an invasion resisted to the last by brave Ukrainians while calculating the expected boost to their stock portfolios all the while. But the truth is, things are unlikely to go that far.
Russia is, thanks to the fact it is next to Ukraine, in an enviable military position. From a systems perspective, it is clear Ukraine is caught in a horrible trap where Kiev can be subjected to what in game design is called a degenerate strategy.
People think that war is about two sides trading blows, but real combat is always about applying asymmetry to beat an opponent at minimum cost. No one fights fair in real life, and military technology is complicated, prone to failure at multiple points.
Because of its massive military power compared to Ukraine Russia has a series of asymmetric advantages that allow it to inflict severe damage on Ukraine’s military without suffering much in the way of losses in return. These imply that the coming days will see things go something like this:
- Some event, maybe in Donbas, perhaps along the border with Belarus, kills or injures Russian nationals. After a brief interlude where Putin holds open a door to Ukraine agreeing to terms, artillery starts falling across Donbas.
- If Ukraine fires back, their forces reveal their positions and get hammered across the Line of Contact in Donbas. If they don’t, and Ukraine remains defiant, Russia lets some separatist forces seize a little territory until someone does fight back.
- Once there have been Russian casualties, Putin has all the justification he’ll require for unleashing an assault on Ukrainian forces across the eastern half of the country. At some point small-scale uprisings are likely behind the lines, possibly fomented by Russian special forces.
- Faced with hostiles in multiple directions, the bulk of Ukraine’s military, already deployed to the east, can be overwhelmed with the shooters staying out of range of Ukraine’s weapons. Russia doesn’t need to take territory to achieve its true objective: the end of Ukraine as we know it.
- With Russian forces threatening from all sides, its military under heavy bombardment and paralyzed, even without a major invasion Putin can put Kiev into an impossible bind. Fight and lose, hoping to draw Russia into a bloody insurgency that will kill tens of thousands of people and devastate the region (NATO’s hope) or negotiate a ceasefire, even under wretched terms.
- If Ukraine’s government refuses to buckle, Russia can blockade its southern ports — something that would have the side bonus of forcing NATO to either stand up for freedom of navigation and risk a war it isn’t prepared for, or basically give up any hope of supporting Ukraine with real military force any time in the future, as much of it comes through Odessa.
- In the best case scenario for Ukraine, where it holds out through February and the weather starts to warm, the presence of a rival for the Presidency in a coup effort will offer Moscow another avenue of attack short of direct invasion Long term, Russia is prepared to strangle Ukraine and devastate its military while insisting it hasn’t invaded and so sanctions aren’t justified. If anger at the government builds as Ukraine stands alone while the conflict drags on, a coup in Kiev becomes possible. Russian paratroopers might be invited into Kiev, giving it control of the whole country without a bloody invasion.
The reason Russia is surrounding Ukraine with military formations is both to challenge NATO and to keep open the option of launching a swift thrust to Kiev to take advantage of a coup attempt. This keeps Ukraine’s military dispersed, meaning fewer forces can defend Donbas.
If Russia launches a ground invasion, it will likely be conducted strictly in the east, bypassing major cities like Kharkov and Dnipro and sticking to farmland to minimize civilian involvement. A push north from Crimea, backed by amphibious landings along the indefensible Azov sea coast, could be accompanied by local uprisings to give Putin a fig leaf of claiming the whole thing is about protecting Russians from reprisals. This would create a lethal cauldron around Donbas, allowing Russia to force Ukraine to cede the only territory it might actually want from Ukraine and can lock down tight enough to prevent an insurgency.
Putin is in a position to pressure Kiev into compliance with his demands, like a linebacker arm wrestling with a golfer. Unless an ally steps in and actually does something with sufficient force, Ukraine is screwed.
Talk of insurgencies and resistance serve as disgusting incitements for Ukrainians to get killed fighting a war that’s really between NATO and Russia. Because NATO won’t give up the ghost and let the European Union have a democratically accountable defense force of its own, Putin maintains the excuse he needs to stay in power and keep rebuilding NATO’s Cold War foe.
What a weird, perverse game the powerful play! Would that only Presidents were sent to fight their stupid wars — if any of them believed anything they said, they would.
If you want further evidence of how NATO and America have thought about Ukraine all along, Biden made a comment in his recent press conference that really says it all. In it, responding to a question about how NATO will respond to a Russian attack, he stated:
“There are differences in what countries are willing to do depending on what happens.
“If Russian forces cross the border killing Ukrainians, that changes everything. It depends what he does in terms of getting unity in Nato.”
Folks, Joe Biden just confirmed my entire case as I was typing this essay. Biden talks a big game about a lot of things, but cannot be trusted. He lies all the time. He only seems honest in comparison to his idiot predecessor. Ukraine has just been sold to Russia, Biden and America’s foreign policy elite determining Ukraine’s destruction might give NATO a new lease on life.
Putin’s gambit has been a success. All this talk of mass invasion countered by a bloody NATO-funded insurgency is a waste of hot air.
The NATO establishment has always intended to let Ukraine die, and Russia knows exactly how to kill it and get away with the murder.
It is clear that it’s long past time for NATO to go the way of the Warsaw Pact.
In the end, only Europe was ever going to commit to defend Europeans. America uses anyone it associates with — that’s how American “society” works. The whole thing is a pyramid scheme designed to keep a lucky few and their families few living easy.
Just like Russia. The only real difference is that America hasn’t fallen as far as Russia. Yet.
If Article 5 were ever invoked in a real war with Russia, NATO would fragment and fail. It is unreliable as a security instrument, yet Russia must be deterred. Putin is deliberate and rational now — but he might well go mad in the future.
A European Union Defense Force is the only option for Europe. America can never be trusted — it wants Cold War 2.0 to maintain the exorbitant profits of its defense industry complex.