Saying "No" to NATO-Options For Ukrainian Neutrality

Summary of Study

Bottom line: NATO membership for Ukraine is an impossibility. Therefore, the U.S. and allied nations should halt their support for its inclusion in the alliance, reducing tensions with Russia. Such a move would force Ukraine to reorient its foreign policy in the direction of realism and neutrality, allowing it to focus on pressing domestic concerns.

The U.S. has no vital national interest in Ukraine. Meddling in its affairs is not worth the risk of affecting relations with Russia, a nuclear-armed power. Ukraine's geographic position puts it between the West and Russia, and it must pursue its alliances accordingly. Danger mitigation should be the U.S.'s top priority in its policy regarding Ukraine. That means putting an end to the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO. Such a move will encourage Ukraine to pursue a more pragmatic path.

While Russia's annexation of the Crimea increased sympathy for Ukraine in the West, the annexation was not akin to Hitler's aggressive moves before WWII. There are at least four factors why the West should end its NATO courtship of Ukraine:

  • Lack of consensus among Ukrainians about joining NATO -- According to surveys, less than half of Ukrainians want to join NATO, and only 25 percent support allowing NATO bases in the country.  
  • Changing strategic landscape in Europe -- Russia has strengthened militarily in recent years, making Ukraine's inclusion in NATO a dangerous prospect.
  • Defensibility of Ukraine -- NATO could not feasibly defend Ukraine's 1,200-mile border with Russia.
  • An imbalance of interests between the West and Russia -- For the U.S., Ukraine joining NATO is a policy option; for Russia, it's an existential threat.

Ukraine is the new Poland, a victim of its geography. It must learn to balance demands from Russia and the West. Neutrality -- following the Finnish, Austrian, or Swedish models -- is the best path forward for Ukraine and the U.S. The possibility of NATO membership impedes this balancing act. 

The U.S. should explicitly state that Ukraine will not enter NATO. The U.S. should prioritize its own security vis-a-vis Russia, not the "Ukrainian cause." In return, the U.S. should seek Russia's help in ending the Donbas conflict. 

Read the full explainer HERE

Feature Charticle

Ukrainian Views of Military Relations with Nato

Defense Priorities

Findings:

  • According to surveys, less than half of Ukrainians want to join NATO, and only 25 percent support allowing NATO bases in the country.  
  • NATO membership for Ukraine is an impossibility given Russia's increased military power and the impossibility of defending the country. 
  • The U.S. and Allied nations should halt their support for Ukraine's inclusion in NATO, reducing tensions with Russia. 
  • Ukraine should reorient its foreign policy in the direction of realism and neutrality, allowing it to focus on pressing domestic concerns. 

Read the full explainer HERE