The Platform

Vladimir Putin greeting Emmanuel Macron at the Kremlin.

Accepting Ukraine into the fold is long overdue.

With recent tensions in Ukraine dominating news headlines over the past few months, many seem to be considering exactly what is Ukraine’s relationship with NATO? Are they friends, distant collaborators, or just a means to achieve each other’s security goals? The already complex relationship between Ukraine and NATO is further complicated by Russia, who has stated that a potential Ukraine and NATO partnership would lead to some of the harshest consequences possible. The existing relationship and Russia’s threats have made many in the West wonder: What should the relationship between Ukraine and NATO be? Should NATO, to avert war, accept Ukraine?

Yes, Western powers should allow Ukraine to join NATO for a handful of reasons. First, Ukraine needs backing from NATO and international powers to maintain its security and independence from Russian aggression, and second, the potential addition of Ukraine to NATO serves as a continual bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe. Through the addition of Ukraine in NATO, Western leaders can kill two of the most important geopolitical “birds” in Eastern Europe with one “stone.”

In 1992, Ukraine, a newly independent nation, sought to establish ties with NATO to begin economic integration into Europe and gain general protection against the possibility of Russian encroachment. While this request was granted, NATO never went further than this arrangement, hoping to avoid angering or agitating Russia. In 2014, when Russia invaded and subsequently seized the Crimean Peninsula, NATO intervened both economically and logistically to help the Ukrainians retain the peninsula. Again, NATO stopped short of officially accepting Ukraine into the fold, even though it lent considerable support to it. Now, in 2022, Russia continues to extol massive pressure over Ukraine, as thousands of troops are stationed at the border between the two nations, provoking tensions and raising fears of war. Russia, in its recent buildup, has stated how NATO’s advancement and relations with Ukraine are a major reason for the recent flare-up in tensions. Now, NATO again stands at the precipice, seeking to help Ukraine and fight Russia while remaining officially neutral on the issue of membership.

Ukraine is in dire need of NATO protection and support–admission into the organization would be a clear affirmation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination by the Western world. Currently, without official Western backing, Ukraine is subject to ruthless misinformation and propaganda campaigns by the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin repeatedly pushes the myth that Russia and Ukraine are “one people” separated by “artificial and arbitrary borders.” He pushes the idea that Russia seeks to reunite these separated peoples, and that Russian intervention will be one of the only ways to do that. These lies have been responsible for political destabilization and separatist movements in Ukraine already, and the Ukrainian government is helpless to do anything about it.

Not only has Russia been winning the propaganda war, but it has already physically invaded Ukraine in the past. In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula and annexed the Crimean Peninsula after numerous black operation campaigns and general unrest. While Ukraine did receive international help, it could not successfully recover the territory, and to this day, Crimea remains a part of Russia. While Ukraine has never had the luxury of having NATO allies to depend on, international action has proven to protect Ukraine in the past. After Russia’s illicit annexation of Ukraine, the Western world levied some of the harshest sanctions in modern history against Russia, leading to the collapse of the Russian ruble and a sizable downturn in its economy.

With these sanctions, one of Russia’s main assets, its economy, crumbled within only a few months, showing that concerted international actions can harm Russia and protect Ukraine from further aggression. Without concerted international action, Ukraine has been the subject of Russian bullying for the past 20 years, and it has had no one to rely on to help fight against the constant propaganda and military presence. If Ukraine had the privilege of NATO backing it, Ukraine could be confident in its independence and self-determination and act forcefully against Russian aggression with the assurance of NATO assistance.

Jingoistic Russian foreign policy has for too long been a haunting specter for Ukraine. Without the backing it so desperately needs, Ukraine remains at the mercy of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Enter NATO. If NATO were to accept Ukraine into the organization, Ukraine would have the ability to assert itself against Russia, and NATO would have a bulwark of defense in Eastern Europe, a situation that suits both sides perfectly. Ukraine must be allowed to join NATO: for the safety of the world, and for the continued existence of the Ukrainian nation as we know it.

Zain Rahman is a student in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include foreign policy, economics, and philosophy.