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Ukraine NATO

A Ukrainian solider takes part in the joint Rapid Trident military exercises with the United States and other NATO countries near Lviv, Ukraine on September 24, 2021, as tensions with Russia remain high over the Kremlin-backed insurgency in the country's east. (Photo: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images)

'Needlessly Provocative': Austin Rebuked for Again Opening NATO Door to Ukraine and Georgia

"The Biden administration now faces a stark choice: commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end."

Brett Wilkins

Anti-war advocates on Monday warned that U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin would be making a dangerous strategic blunder if he suggests that Ukraine and Georgia have a welcome mat toward full integration into the NATO military alliance—a move critics say would dramatically increase the risk of war between Washington, D.C. and Moscow.

"Keeping the 'door' open to NATO expansion antagonizes Russia, and it strings Ukraine and Georgia along for no good reason."

According to The Washington Times, Austin will signal that NATO is holding an "open door" for Georgia and Ukraine as he visits the two nations and Romania this week.

"We are reassuring and reinforcing the sovereignty of countries that are on the front lines of Russian aggression," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters ahead of Austin's trip.

Critics like Matt Duss, foreign policy to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), renewed long-standing warnings against potential NATO membership for the two former Soviet republics.

Duss, writing on his personal Twitter account, categorized the move as "needlessly provocative," one that "will almost certainly receive wall to wall applause in DC."

According to contributing editor Daniel Larison:

Encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to believe that NATO membership is still in the cards for them is a serious mistake. It is not surprising that the Biden administration is maintaining the status quo on this issue, but it is a missed opportunity to reverse some of the damage that was done back in 2008 when this dangerous promise was first made to these aspirant states.

Keeping the "door" open to NATO expansion antagonizes Russia, and it strings Ukraine and Georgia along for no good reason. Many European allies will not support bringing these states into the alliance, and there is no compelling reason to add them.

Both countries would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defend in the event of a conflict, and they already have Russian or Russian-backed forces on their territory. Even if they were model democracies, which they most certainly are not, they would be poor candidates for the alliance.

Under Article 5 of the NATO charter—also known as the "collective defense" clause—the United States and other alliance members would be treaty-bound to fight Russia should war break out with Georgia or Ukraine. Russian troops invaded and occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008, and Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Ukraine is also widely considered the ancient cradle of Russian civilization.

Critics have long argued that NATO, formed in 1949 as a mutual defense pact against the Soviet Union, is a provocative anachronism in the absence of any threat from a long-defunct Warsaw Pact, and should be dissolved.

Peace advocates have greeted each actual or proposed enlargement of NATO—which currently counts 10 former Soviet or Warsaw Pact republics as members, and which has crept steadily eastward since its inception—by warning that such expansion threatens world peace.

"After decades of overreach, the Biden administration now faces a stark choice," writes Stephen Wertheim of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, "commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end."

Austin's trip comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that his country's government was suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's Moscow office. The move follows last week's expulsion of eight Russian staff members from Russia's mission in Brussels amid espionage allegations.

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