Why Ukraine Is Not Accepted to NATO

The main reason why Ukraine is not in NATO yet
(and why, in particular, Putin has started the war) is
Ukrainian mentality which prevented Ukraine to really
secede from Russia in 1991 unlike the Baltic states did.

Image by UK Prime Minister, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The question "who is to blame?" is one of the most important questions which a person (or a nation) can ask to apprehend thyself, the path and the mistakes made along this path.
Only after the final and objective clarification of this question one can correctly answer the next very important question - "what to do?".

NATO summit and Mr. Zelenskiy's rude statement.

On July 11-12, Vilnius (Lithuania) hosted the summit of NATO countries with the participation of invited guests, including the President of Ukraine V. Zelenskiy. The main issues at the summit were ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war and Ukraine’s prospective NATO membership. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced at the end of the summit that Ukraine would become a member of NATO without Membership Action Plan, not naming the dates.
We will issue an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO when Allies agree that conditions are met,” - he said.

The G7 countries also agreed on guarantees of long-term security for Ukraine to sweeten the bitterness of their first vague decision.

The Ukrainians expected to receive a clear confirmation of the West's readiness to accept Ukraine in the Alliance right now. However, this did not happen and President Zelenskiy, not hiding his disappointment, made several harsh statements about NATO.
Even before the summit, he wrote on his Twitter:
« … Ukraine also deserves respect... Now, on the way to Vilnius, we received signals that certain wording is being discussed without Ukraine… It’s unprecedented and absurd when time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine's membership.»

Some high-ranking Western diplomats correctly found such statements of Mr. Zelenskiy unacceptable and considered that he «was going too far.»

Ukrainians, of course, were upset by the results of the NATO summit, but Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine O. Danilov has admitted, that “in general, everything that happened ... is, of course, a victory for us”.

It seems that Mr. Zelenskiy and many Ukrainians mistakenly believe that they protect the West from the Russians and therefore the West owes them something. This is wrong viewpoint, and even more than that - it is Mr. Putin's opinion. He has been promoting for a long time the thesis about the West (NATO, in particular) is to blame for Russia's attack on Ukraine. This is clearly not the case. Ukrainians are fighting not for the West, but for themselves, because the Russians attacked Ukraine. Mr. Zelenskiy's position (which is apparently shared by many Ukrainians) is wrong and supports Mr. Putin's view on this war.

The Ukrainians asked for weapons and money to defend themselves against Russian aggression. The West thought for a while and started giving both. Maybe not exactly what was needed, and not exactly when it was needed, but the West gave something constantly at the risk of angering its opposition, businesses, taxpayers, and Mr. Putin with his nuclear weapons. The West also imposes sanctions and tries to deprive Russia of money and economic opportunities to make war. Mr. Zelenskiy can only thank for all that and, unfortunately, keep fighting since more than 80% of Ukrainians want to fight until the victorious end.

If there was no help from the West and, of course, the selfless work of Ukrainian citizen-patriots (volunteers and all those who are dying now at the front), Ukraine would be already a part of Russia in spring 2022. War is an expensive stuff and Ukraine doesn't have enough money to participate, while Russia can afford that. Mr. Putin must have taken that into account, too, while planning the attack.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds.

Mr. Zelenskiy has made a real gift to Mr. Putin by his harsh statements at the NATO summit in Vilnius. Russia's chances for a dignified exit from the war have increased a little.

Everyone is tired from the war in Ukraine - Ukrainians, Russians, the West, all the world more or less, and now the war has entered a protracted phase when the economic and moral endurance of all sides becomes a decisive factor for victory. Ukrainians are dying, but they receive material and moral support from a large group of countries so far. The Russians are also dying, get almost no support, and the countries of the global Southeast (Turkey, China, India) are just blatantly profiteering from discounted prices for Russian oil and gas due to Western sanctions. Ukraine's much anticipated counteroffensive is going too slowly (because it cannot go any faster). Ukraine's donor countries have many internal problems - poverty, budget deficits, inflation, natural and man-made disasters, crimes, immigration, etc.

And here Mr. Zelenskiy makes vicious attack on his Western partners. What will happen if the West takes offense and stops helping? No one should snort in such a position. If allies say "it's too early" (to join EU or NATO), it is correct just to thank them and not to shame the benefactors.

2024 is a critical year for the end of the war in Ukraine. And, of course, it is better for Ukrainians not to wait for it to come, but to defeat Russians this year.

There are several very important events in 2024: the presidential election in Russia (March), the European Parliament elections (June) and the US presidential election (November). These are milestone events for the war in Ukraine, so 2024 is a year which Mr. Putin is very much looking forward to and hoping for. His minimum task is to remain the president of Russia. If he survives his election, he gets a good chance of making an honorable peace with Ukraine, keeping some of its territory and not causing an explosion of discontent among his Russians with the course of the war.

1. Presidential election in the Russian Federation are scheduled for mid-March. Mr. Putin may not win it, or he may not go for it at all. It depends mainly on a counteroffensive of the Ukrainian armed forces, which would not necessarily end with a Russian defeat. The Russians are very well entrenched in eastern and southeastern Ukraine and it will be very difficult to dislodge them from there. Ukrainians can only count on their high motivation and western long-range weapons and airplanes. Therefore, Ukrainians cannot demand too much from the allies or reproach them for anything.

The main target of Ukrainians should be the Crimean peninsula. Mr. Zelenskiy is right by saying that «everything started with Crimea and will end with it». If Ukraine manages to regain Crimea - it is very likely that Russia will fall apart because of internal discontent and explosion of emotions. However, it is needed to reach to Crimea. The West's long-range weapons are badly needed here, and the airplanes will mainly cover attacks by ground troops. The West is already giving something which is already being applied on the battlefield.
The chances of success are roughly equal between Russians and Ukrainians now. Of course, we would like Russia to pay for its aggression, but evil is not always punished. Putin simply cannot fail to score - Russia has too much resources and there is too much at stake.

2. The next election to the European Parliament will be in June 2024. This is the legislative body of the EU. Here, groups with extreme right-wing views can come to power. They have long sympathized with Mr. Putin and enjoyed his support. Despite appearances of diversity, the far right generally favor limiting or ending immigration, LGBTQ rights, their countries' participation in NATO, spending money on climate change and military aid to Ukraine.

3. The US presidential election will be held in November 2024. As it is currently seen, it will again be a battle between the current and former US presidents, D. Biden and D. Trump. If Mr. Trump is elected, it is very likely that he will drastically reduce military aid to Ukraine and, apparently, will insist on Ukraine’s surrendering part of its territory in exchange for peace with Russia. Ukraine will have to listen as the US gives a lot of weapons and equipment for war.

Thus, Ukraine does not have much time - perhaps until early 2025 - for a major military victory, which may trigger a process of active disillusionment with the war and Mr. Putin personally in Russian society and lead to the collapse of Russia. Everything happens in its own time, and the Ukrainians may not have enough time to get the desired effect on the battlefield.

There is still a small hope for an internal coup in Russia since Mr. Putin has started a purge among his generals after Mr. Prigozhin's recent strange mutiny, but the probability of that is low.

Who is to blame for the current war in Ukraine?

Mr. Zelenskiy has ungratefully criticized his allies at the NATO summit because of the different way of thinking which is called “the mentality”. Ukrainians (like Russians) for some reason often think that other nations do not treat them well enough. This is because Ukrainians (especially, Ukrainian officials) as well as all Russians see themselves much better than they really are. Here probably Mr. Zelenskiy's accusations at the NATO summit of "disrespecting" Ukraine and constant complaints of the Russians about “russophobia” originate from.

Well, the Russians have always had this feature as a part of their mentality and it is useless to reeducate them. The Ukrainians may try to understand the attitude of other nations towards them by answering the question: who is to blame for the current war in Ukraine?

Mr. Zelenskiy and many Ukrainians see only one side of that coin - the treacherous attack by aggressive Russia which is, of course, correct, but not the complete picture. All those who think the same way may try to see the other side of the same coin and think about the following question, which I usually ask the Ukrainians in such (generally useless) discussions: "Why did Russia attack Ukraine specifically?"

So, why did Russia attack Ukraine specifically?

Indeed, why?
After all, there are other republics of the former USSR to which the Russians may have territorial and other claims. In addition, there are Poland, Finland, China, American Alaska, finally. Among many correct answers to this question there is the following one: Ukraine did not really separate from Russia after the collapse of the USSR and weakened much since then. The Ukrainians did everything to make it happen the way it did. More precisely, they did nothing to become a strong and independent state. Russia does not attack strong states.

Ukraine seceded from the USSR at the end of 1991, but never created its own statehood, unlike the Baltic republics did, otherwise it could have already been in NATO and EU, like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Then there would not be the current war and surrender of Crimea and other territories to Russia in 2014. The conditions and time of leaving the USSR were approximately the same for all Soviet republics.

It was only the mentality that differed.

Ukrainians, as well as Russians, had the Soviet international (within the borders of the USSR) mentality of "it’s our swamp" type. Nobody was going to separate from the USSR-Russia and did not even imagine how and, most importantly, why to live separately. Immediately after the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) — a phantom organization of the dead USSR - and invited all former Soviet republics to join it.
12 of the 15 republics have joined!

The Baltic states apparently knew much better just why to secede from Russia and wisely choose not to participate. Their mentality was “it’s your swamp” since Mr. Stalin's annexation (seizure) of the Baltic states in June 1940.

Thus all 3 Baltic republics immediately moved towards healthy nationalism and started to decisively sever all ties with USSR-Russia in 1990-s, namely, to get away from their energy dependence. Lithuania became the first Soviet republic which restored its independence in March 1990. The USSR immediately imposed an economic blockade of Lithuania by ceasing to deliver supplies like raw oil, and when that didn’t help — they sent troops there. Lithuania paid for its independence with lives of 14 its citizens then, but it really left the zone of influence of the USSR-Russia in 1991 and since 2004 is doing fine under the umbrellas of EU and NATO.

Ukraine is now paying with tens of thousands of its citizens’ lives for the real separation from Russia, which 92% of Ukrainians (myself included) voted for at the referendum on December 8, 1991.
So nationalism, like everything else in the world, is not "bad", it is necessary in every country in certain quantities.

Why has Ukraine weakened so much over the years of its "independence"?

Instead of real separation from the USSR-Russia and the creation of a new state, Ukraine's elite has split into a few clans which began a multi-year struggle with each other - first for the legacy of the dead USSR, and then for the distribution of government positions (and thus, money flows from the budget). They split the country apart by this and stopped its development. The people could not influence the elected authorities and just silently observed all that.

The Ukrainian elite abused its power and grew rich, the people got poorer but obediently followed all the political "initiatives" of different parties/clans and voted for their representatives, and the Russians bought Ukrainian elite wholesale (by creating pro-Russian parties) and retail (President Yanukovych, for example). As a result, Ukraine never became an independent political player in the world, remaining an oil and gas dependent colony of Russia for many years. From this point of view, Ukraine differed not much from Russia — just there were several clans which robbed the country and therefore produced more mess in Ukraine, while one clan won in Russia.
And Russia is objectively richer than Ukraine.

I believe this is what Mr. Putin had in mind by repeatedly stating that "Ukrainians and Russians are one people" and "Ukraine is a failed state”. Here he was fatally mistaken, having bought only a part of the Ukrainian elite and not taking into account the Ukrainian people who for some reason categorically refused to become "Russians". Thus, only since 2014 (loss of Crimea and Donbass) and especially from February 24, 2022 Ukrainian people began to develop a new mentality, aiming to realize themselves as a separate nation and create their real unique state, which they did not/could not organize during all their "independence". The blood, sweat and tears of the war were needed to start this process. The war has yet to be won and there is a huge work ahead to create a truly independent and efficient Ukraine.

Every war comes to an end. This one will, too.

I don't know how all this will end. For both Ukraine and Russia (as it turns out now for the Russians) this is a «stake everything» game.
There could also be a 3rd option - if Ukraine goes to "peace talks" and cedes its southeastern territories. Then the war will resume after some time with or without Mr. Putin at the head of Russia.
We'll see.

Changing the mentality.

Changing the mentality of an individual takes years of dedicated work or constant being in a different environment. Changing the mentality of a nation takes decades at best — biblical Moses made the Jews wandering about the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egyptian slavery. However, war and suffering compress time and everything can happen in Ukraine faster, for example, in 5-10 years. That's when I will finish the last article in my «Hopeless Ukraine» series. I already have a question that will allow me to determine whether the war has changed the mentality of the Ukrainians.

But first Ukraine needs to win the war and that is the main thing now (not NATO membership). For that, the Ukrainian government should remember that Ukraine would have already lost the war without Western aid.
✚ Add comment
Add comment: