Ambassador Kurt Volcker was U.S. Ambassador to NATO and U.S. Special Representative to Ukraine on a voluntary basis. He recently commented on Ukraine’s accession to NATO membership. According to him, the Membership Action Plan which he was instrumental in formulating in 1999 is essentially irrelevant for Ukraine since Ukraine has to date complied with all reforms required under MAP.
This is a most significant comment since Ambassador Volcker knows better than President Joe Biden or President Emmanuel Macron or Chancellor Angela Merkel whether Ukraine is a legitimate and ready candidate for NATO membership. Unfortunately, it also means that President Biden’s comment in response to a reporter’s question following the recent NATO Summit about Ukraine having to reform in order to qualify for NATO was at best an example of President Biden being unformed and at worst Joe Biden simply took a cue from his predecessor and lying.
It is important to consider the comments of Ambassador Volcker given the upcoming Biden-Zelensky Summit. There is no justification for declining Ukraine’s accession to NATO except perhaps the specious “redline” argument. At the Biden-Putin Summit President Biden drew several red lines mostly regarding cyber hacking by the Russians of American industries. President Putin drew at least one redline as well – Ukraine may not become a member of NATO. While President Biden’s redlines were customary and rational under international law, Putin contravened every concept of international law. He brazenly addressed an issue of sovereignty of another country and violated that sovereignty egregiously. President Biden should have declined to consider Putin’s proposal out of hand and voiced his displeasure loudly. That did not happen.
It did not happen because of old policy, defined in the XX century as appeasement. Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin including the latter’s numerous successors were appeased which resulted in the murder of millions. Only presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan manifested a backbone and refused to appease. President Biden who often not only falls back on his political tenure and experience, but also his alleged moral compass insisting that this is not “who we are” unfortunately vis a vis Ukraine has been a poster child for appeasement. This must change.
The Ukrainian community in the United States should be instrumental in this regard. Frankly, even if American becomes an honest broker and world leader, other Ukrainian communities throughout the world should lobbying their own governments. Unfortunately, while manifestly opposed to appeasement, many in these communities have enabled and even facilitated that form of behavior of their own countries, by advancing conflated and obsequious arguments about Ukraine’s need to reform as a precondition to NATO membership, the current war with Russia being somehow a statutory or legal obstacle to NATO membership and other ridiculous arguments, thereby supplying justification for their governments to appear and feel, albeit disingenuously, morally correct in withholding Ukraine’s NATO membership.
My plea to Ukrainian leaders in the diaspora is stop trying to soften the approach. There are no obstacles or bars to Ukraine’s NATO accession except an immoral and politically shortsighted, albeit historical policy on the part of the West known as appeasement. Ukrainian Americans need to remember that U.S. Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the USSR as millions of Ukrainians were dying in the Holodomor and then gave away Eastern Europe to Uncle Joe at Yalta, that Republican President Gerald Ford tried to convince the American voters that there was no Soviet influence in Eastern Europe, that Republican President George H.W. Bush warned Ukrainians about suicidal nationalism and took four months to recognize Ukrainian independence. I could go on. Democrats and Republicans were similar in appeasing.
The Biden-Zelensky Summit is a great opportunity for America and specifically, President Biden to show the world and Ukraine precisely “who we are.” Do we Americans have backbone, a moral compass or are we simply inveterate appeasers? This summit is very significant for Ukraine. But it is no less important for Americans to show the world “who we are”.
August 7,2021 Askold S. Lozynskyj