From the Left: Should Ukraine be invited to join NATO?

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By Lance Simmens  

In 1989, the world witnessed the unveiling of the Iron Curtain. Two years later came the fall of the Soviet Empire. A decade later, after a very brief flirtation with democratic reforms like Perestroika and Glasnost, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, would rise to become president and start a journey to restore old-school authoritarianism and rebuild a second version of the USSR. Unfortunately, the hopes and dreams of a post-communist governmental system would succumb to the emergence of Putin.

In 1949, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) was created to serve as a bulwark against Soviet aggression. It remains the pillar of US-Europe military cooperation, although expansion has allowed countries outside the Euro-Atlantic region. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 NATO member countries (now numbering 31) have provided Ukraine with an unprecedented amount of military support, including sophisticated weaponry such as tanks, heavy artillery, armed drones, and anti-aircraft systems. Just this last week, Turkey dropped its opposition to inviting Sweden into the alliance, raising the number to 32.

Ukraine has sought to be added to the list; however, the Biden Administration has been careful not to provoke a Russian response that Putin has suggested might lead to the use of nuclear weapons. Also, Article V of the Treaty states “an armed attack against one of more (member states) in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” The administration is wise to thoughtfully gauge the extent to which our assistance and the future of NATO promotes freedom, liberty, and democracy without inviting further conflict. It is a delicate balancing act and will require the patience yet determination of our ideals to prevail without endangering a potentially catastrophic confrontation.

Since the war began, the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have directed more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial, and military support, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute. The Biden administration resolve has wide support within the US, however just as we are divided along political lines and dictums, that support is showing signs of fraying. 

There has been throughout the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century an undercurrent of isolationism that is bubbling just underneath the surface. Where the potential for a Trump-Biden rematch is a possibility, and the relatively close margins in both houses of Congress are up for grabs, the impatience of the electorate and the echo chamber social media nature of what passes for news are likely to revive isolationist sentiment and authoritarian dictums.

Aside from a sense of morality that seriously screams that we have a duty to protect Ukraine from Russian imperialism, and before you roll your eyes and say out loud “not another doomsday prognostication” let me make an attempt to unveil some recent polling data and support from an unlikely corner, namely Fox News.

The Pew Research Center released polling data last month that shows nearly half of Americans (47 percent) say either that the U.S. is providing the right amount of aid (31 percent) or not enough assistance (16 percent) to Ukraine, while 28 percent say too much.

A majority of Democrats (59 percent) approve of the administration’s response to the Russian invasion, while (57 percent) of Republicans disapprove.

Surprisingly an opinion piece written by Michael Allen/Fox News has outlined five reasons why America must support Ukraine and help it defeat Russia:

1. Ukraine keeps the war from spreading: World wars start in Europe and the Russian army is a clear and present danger to the U.S. and its NATO allies.

2. Ukraine is degrading a hostile Russia: A Russia with diminished war-making capability gives our allies time to build their forces to meet their NATO obligations.

3. Ukrainian success helps restore economic vitality: A Russian win could mean higher energy and food prices for Europe and the U.S.

4. A victorious Ukraine helps the US competition with China: According to U.S. intelligence community China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, a loss for Russia is a loss for China.

5. A Ukrainian victory promotes American values: Russia seeks, with its ally China, to destroy the U.S.-led post WWII international system built on freedom, economic openness, and democracy.

Isolationism has strong roots in American society, and there is an inkling that we are at the beginning of a resurgence. While a vibrant isolationist movement was present between WWI and WWII it was quashed by President Roosevelt. The Roosevelt administration and other leaders inspired Americans to favor the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, and following the war, the threat embodied by the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin dampened any comeback of isolationism.

The Biden administration is right for holding NATO membership for Ukraine in abeyance for the time being. In all likelihood, it will happen in good time, but patience and determination are crucial for now.