Why is Putin worried when Ukraine is not a member of NATO?

Washington (AP) —The heart of the Ukrainian crisis is a puzzle: why does Russian President Vladimir Putin push Europe to the brink of war and demand that the West not do anything unplanned anyway?

Russia is an American-led alliance that has had the biggest European crisis in decades, and NATO should never offer accession to Ukraine, which gained independence when the Soviet Union collapsed about 30 years ago. I say it won’t. Ukraine has long wanted to join NATO, but the alliance is not willing to offer an invitation, partly because of Ukraine’s official corruption, the shortcomings of defense facilities, and lack of border control.

Putin’s demands go beyond the question of Ukraine-NATO relations, but the connection is at the heart of his dissatisfaction that the West pushed him to the limit of patience by approaching the Russian border. He claims that the NATO expansion a few years ago strengthened its security at the expense of Russia.

Russians demand that Ukraine be legally guaranteed to be denied NATO membership. This knows that NATO, in principle, has not ruled out potential accession of European countries and even Russia, but there are no plans to start Ukraine for accession in the near future. .. The principle quoted by NATO is that all countries should be free to choose who to partner with.

So why is Moscow now questioning the relationship between Ukraine and NATO? The answer is complicated.

Why is Putin worried about Ukraine joining NATO?

The reason stated is that further eastern expansion of NATO will pose a security threat to Russia. Washington and its allies have denied that this is a legitimate concern. This is because NATO countries are not threatening to use force against Russia.

In a broader sense, Putin wants NATO to withdraw its existing military presence in Eastern Europe. This includes a series of regular exercises in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and all former Soviet countries. No US military is permanently based in these Baltic states. Currently, there are about 100 rotation tours in Lithuania and about 60 rotation tours in Estonia and Latvia, the Pentagon says.

Putin could also be transformed into an offensive weapon that could threaten Russia, opposed to the existence of NATO’s missile defense in the former Soviet satellite state of Romania, and a similar base under development in Poland. Said. President Joe Biden has approved an additional 2,700 US troops to be sent to Eastern Europe this week. There are 1,700 in Poland, 1,000 in Romania and 300 in Germany.

Ukraine has a deep historical and cultural connection with Russia, and Putin has repeatedly claimed that Russians and Ukrainians are “one person.” He said that much of Ukraine’s territory is a historic part of Russia arbitrarily given to Ukraine by Communist Party leaders under the Soviet Union.

Putin recently explained his Ukrainian concerns more specifically. He used military force to recapture the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, or to recapture the eastern part of Ukraine, which is now effectively controlled by Russian-backed separatists. I sketched a scenario to do.

“Imagine Ukraine becoming a NATO member and launching those military operations,” Putin said. “Then should we fight NATO? Has anyone thought about it?”

Indeed, some NATO are thinking about the prospects for an extended war with Russia within Ukraine. This is a reminder of what NATO member states mean. An attack on one is an attack on all, and in the theoretical case of Ukraine being attacked by Russia, it means a legal obligation for all NATO members to go to their defense.

What is Ukraine’s outlook for participating in NATO?

Foreseeable future prospects are very unlikely.

Ukraine has not offered to join NATO, but has approached the alliance over time, starting with the 1997 establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Charter to further develop cooperation.

In 2008, NATO leaders publicly declared that Ukraine and its companions, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, would “become members of NATO.” Although they did not say when and how, this statement could be seen as explaining Moscow’s concern that Kiev would eventually join the alliance.

Meanwhile, US and other NATO leaders who signed the 2008 statement on Ukraine and Georgia oppose giving them what is known as the Membership Action Plan, which is the path to final membership. did. Germany and France strongly opposed moving Ukraine towards accession, and the broader view within NATO was that extensive government reforms had to be completed before Ukraine could become a candidate for accession.

This seemingly inconsistent contradiction has not been resolved. So while the NATO door is open, Ukraine will not fit in immediately.

How is Putin squeezing Ukraine?

Moscow has stated that it does not intend to invade Ukraine, but over the past few months it has formed a powerful series of combat units along the Ukrainian border and will take some action if Washington and NATO’s demands are not met. Suggests to take. The Biden administration states that Russia is now able to take a wide range of actions, including a full-scale aggression to occupy Kiev.

President Putin says NATO has gone too far not only by providing Ukraine with weapons and military training, but also by stationing troops in other Eastern European countries that jeopardize Russia’s security.

Also, the increase in the United States over the last decade and NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe were driven by Russia’s merger of the Crimean Peninsula and its invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014. With these Russian actions, NATO has doubled its focus on collective security. In September 2014, NATO leaders reaffirmed their pledge to increase defense spending by establishing a new rapid response force that could be deployed within a few days.