U.S. Embraces Finland’s Move Toward NATO Membership. What About Ukraine?

by 24USATVMay 13, 2022, 2:20 a.m. 17
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Key members of NATO — led by France and Germany — have made clear they are opposed to including Ukraine. It is a view that has hardened now that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government is engaged in an active shooting war in which the United States and the other 29 members of the alliance would be treaty-bound to enter directly if Ukraine was a full-fledged member, covered by its core promise that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Mr. Zelensky understands this dynamic, and weeks into the conflict, he dropped his insistence that Ukraine be ushered into NATO. In late March, a month after the Russian invasion and a point when there still seemed some prospect of a diplomatic solution, he made clear that if it would bring about a permanent end to the war, he was prepared to declare Ukraine a “neutral” state.

“Security guarantees and neutrality, nonnuclear status of our state — we are ready to go for it,” he told Russian journalists, a line he has repeated several times since.

Those statements were a relief to Mr. Biden, whose first objective is to get the Russians out of Ukraine, irreversibly, but whose second is to avoid World War III.

By that, he means staying clear of direct conflict with Mr. Putin’s forces and avoiding doing anything that risks escalation that could quickly turn nuclear. If Ukraine was ushered into NATO, it would reinforce Mr. Putin’s contention that the former Soviet state was conspiring with the West to destroy the Russian state — and it could be only a matter of time until that direct confrontation broke out, with all its perils.

Under that logic, Mr. Biden declined to send MIG fighters to Ukraine that could be used to bomb Moscow. He rejected a no-fly zone over Ukraine because of the risk that American pilots could get into dogfights with Russian pilots.

But his once-clear line has grown fuzzier over the past few weeks.

As Russia’s military weaknesses and incompetence became clear, Mr. Biden approved sending the Ukrainians heavy artillery to frustrate Russia’s latest drive in Donbas, and he has sent missiles and Switchblade drones that have been used to hit Russian tanks.

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