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How Ukraine could join NATO and what to expect from Trump

Boris Johnson arrived in Lviv by Intercity+
Boris Johnson arrived in Lviv by Intercity+

It’s vital that Ukraine be in NATO. I mean, the problem has been caused by our ambiguity, our inability for decades to clearly define what Ukraine is and its place in the Euro-Atlantic security architecture.

Now the answer is clear — Ukraine must be in NATO. We tried living in a world where Ukraine was not in NATO, and let’s face it: it was a disaster. [Russian dictator Vladimir] Putin has eliminated the only argument against Ukraine being in NATO, because the argument against Ukraine being in NATO was not to provoke Russia. I find it hard to imagine that Russia could be any more of a threat than it already is, and I can’t imagine anything more barbaric than what Russia is doing today.

So, the matter is clear. The question is how to overcome resistance to inviting Kyiv to the Alliance?

Because one of the difficulties is that Ukraine cannot easily join NATO while the war continues, and that, of course, gives Putin an incentive to continue the war, because then Ukraine will not join NATO. So, there is a vicious circle that must be broken. We have to find a way to start the process of Ukraine’s accession, even if the borders are not stable, even if the war continues.

What arguments will help break this vicious circle?

There are many good points to make. Let’s face it, Ukraine now looks very good in terms of force interoperability. Ukrainians use many NATO-compatible weapons. In terms of combat power, in terms of the effectiveness of the army, the armed forces, I think there is hardly a NATO force in the entire Alliance that can really be compared to Ukraine. I think it was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe who said that when it comes to the ability to kill Russian troops, the Ukrainians are superior and the most effective force.

Supporting Ukraine is a good thing from a U.S. perspective

So, this is a very strong practical argument. There will certainly be difficulties with some NATO members. We know who they are, we know their objections, we know what they are. But at the end of the day, the United States is the country that matters. Because NATO is an expression of the military power of the United States in Europe. It’s a tool for just that. Therefore, this argument has to be won in the United States. And I think the arguments given are very good now. If we want to help Ukraine win properly, we need to give Ukraine everything it needs to win faster.

We need the [U.S.] State Department and the Congress to think about all the things they’re accomplishing from NATO’s perspective. You [Ukraine] are pushing Russia back, you’re stopping Russian aggression, you’re protecting all the other former Soviet countries and satellites. You’re defending the Baltic states, you’re defending Georgia — you’re defending all these territories from invasion. You heard what Putin said about Poland, and I didn’t like it. You’re shutting all that down. You’re sending a message to China about Russian power, which isn’t very much power, but you’re also sending a message to everybody in the world that it’s not wise to attack your neighbor. Because in the end, if you attack your neighbor, you lose. And that is a great message.

So, when we talk about $60 billion in U.S. aid, that’s actually a great deal and the best investment in world security that can be made. It could potentially save trillions of dollars in the future if, God forbid, we have an even bigger war. If Putin or somebody else continues down this path of madness.

Read also: 'They specialize in melancholy': Ex-UK PM Johnson blasts West's pessimism on Ukraine

Not so many countries share my optimism. For example, there was a certain melancholy and confusion among some European countries at the Munich Security Conference [2024]. They specialize in melancholy in Munich! As long as I’ve been there, they have specialized in it. I remember attending the Munich Conference in [February] 2022, i.e. just before [Russia’s full-scale] invasion [of Ukraine]. I had a meeting with a group of people. I won’t say which country they were from, but they said: ‘Oh, this is so terrible. Oh, no. Oh, no. Putin is so strong. Wouldn’t it be better if... Maybe it would be better if Ukrainians didn’t fight so much, and this war would end very soon.’ And I was just struck by this negativity and pessimism.

Now there is a slowly emerging European realization that this war is critically important. Look at the French. Until recently, they didn’t want SCALP cruise missiles to be used in Crimea. Now they’re saying: ‘Okay.’ The Germans are traditionally very, very pacifist. Now they have overtaken the United Kingdom in terms of spending, although I’m ashamed to tell you this. So, in 2024, you’ll have EUR 8 billion ($8.8 billion in military aid) from Germany. The European Parliament has just voted for another large aid package, bringing the total EU support to about EUR 50 billion ($54.7 billion). So, the EU’s military support is already greater than that provided by the United States.

That’s great, because it’s another reason why supporting Ukraine is a good thing from a U.S. perspective. It makes the Europeans do what the Americans have wanted them to do for decades, namely pay a little more for their own defense. So, that’s a positive point. Are you asking if the Europeans can support you on their own? I guess the simple answer to that is we’ll try if we have to.

Read also: Trump vows to abandon Ukraine — ‘he won’t give a penny’, says Orbán

Britain was on its own [against Germany in WWII] for a long time in 1940, 1941, 1942. America finally showed up in 1942, or at the end of 1941. They waited until we had really spent a lot of money and were in a very bad position. But America will always do the right thing in the end. And I think a U.S. president, whoever he is, will be very interested in Ukraine’s success and not letting Putin win. So, going back to my reason for long-term optimism, I think when you compare the industrial power of the West, NATO countries with that of Russia, it’s about 25-30:1.

You’re wrong to think that time is on Russia’s side in the long run. Time is on the side of people with very large economies, large production capacity. I think the problem we have now is that we’re not producing weapons fast enough. We’re not producing shells fast enough. We’re not delivering equipment fast enough. And this needs to change.

We should be a little less panicky about [U.S. presidential candidate] Donald Trump’s likely victory, if only because he’s the one who gave Javelin [portable anti-aircraft missile systems] to the Ukrainians. [Former U.S.] President [Barack] Obama, for example, didn’t do that. Trump was president when I was UK Foreign Secretary, and a terrible event happened in England — Putin poisoned several people in Salisbury. Everyone thought it would be difficult with Trump. In fact, he expelled 60 Russian diplomats, much more than we thought he would. So, I’m optimistic about him.

I think Donald Trump will at some point think he can negotiate [with Putin]. But he’ll soon realize that no deal is possible with Putin, so I think he’ll eventually be the president who will help protect democracy and support Ukraine.

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As for ultra-[MAGA] Republicans who oppose aid to Ukraine, I think that will change after the presidential elections. I don’t think there is anything remotely conservative about allowing a European democracy, a free, sovereign, independent European democracy like Ukraine, to be destroyed. Where is the conservatism here? Is that in the tradition of [former U.S. President] Ronald Reagan? I don’t see it.

For European countries to have Ukraine’s victory as their goal, I think they should understand the urgency of establishing a steady supply of weapons, shells, and ammunition as soon as possible. And they should better coordinate their actions with Ukraine’s plan. It’s necessary that we, the Europeans, and the United States, do more to help you train Ukrainian soldiers and officers, and do it comprehensively. Thus, if there is a coordinated plan and we understand the Ukrainian strategy, we’ll try to help it in any way we can. I also think it’s time to pay more attention to Crimea, because that’s where Putin is very vulnerable. By the way, there is an interesting thing about Crimea. I think we entered this major war with a 2014 mindset. At that time, we thought that Putin got Crimea, he would never give it back, and that we should be realistic. But now I think that has changed, and Ukraine has a great opportunity to cause Putin real problems in Crimea.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine