John Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, George Beebe, et al – At NATO’s Summit, the Alliance Should Not Move Ukraine Toward Membership

Ahead of next week’s summit, read the open letter signed by a broad spectrum of foreign policy experts advising NATO not to move Ukraine toward membership

Cross-posted from Politico


At last year’s NATO summit, the United States focused on improving Ukraine’s
self-defense capabilities rather than addressing the country’s potential membership in
NATO. At NATO’s upcoming summit in July, some are pushing for NATO to bring
Ukraine significantly closer toward membership, such as by defining an accession
process for Kyiv or inviting the country to join that process. Any such step would be

NATO’s Article 5 is widely considered to bind members of the alliance — in
practice the United States above all — to go to war to repel an attack against any
member. If Ukraine were to join NATO after the current war, the United States and its
Allies would be understood to be making a commitment to fight Russian forces over
Ukraine, should Russia invade again. Reflecting a broad political consensus, President
Biden has ruled out the direct use of U.S. military force since the start of Russia’s
deplorable full-scale invasion two years ago. As the administration recognizes, the
security and prosperity of the United States are not implicated in the current war to the
degree that would warrant direct U.S. military intervention. Indeed, both President
Biden and former President Trump have warned that the conflict could escalate into
“World War III.” For the same reason that the United States should not go to war
against Russia over Ukraine today, it should not make a commitment to go to war
against Russia over Ukraine in the future.

Some claim that the act of bringing Ukraine into NATO would deter Russia from
ever invading Ukraine again. That is wishful thinking. Since Russia began invading
Ukraine in 2014, NATO Allies have demonstrated through their actions that they do not
believe the stakes of the conflict, while significant, justify the price of war. If Ukraine
were to join NATO, Russia would have reason to doubt the credibility of NATO’s
security guarantee — and would gain an opportunity to test and potentially rupture the
alliance. The result could be a direct NATO-Russia war or the unraveling of NATO itself.

Dangling NATO membership for Ukraine does a disservice to Ukrainians who are
bravely fighting for their independence. The closer NATO comes to promising that
Ukraine will join the alliance once the war ends, the greater the incentive for Russia to
keep fighting the war and killing Ukrainians so as to forestall Ukraine’s integration into
NATO. Ukraine faces difficult choices of enormous consequence for its future.
Ukrainians deserve to weigh their strategic options through clear eyes, not through
rose-tinted glasses held out by outsiders who do not have the support of their countries.

The challenges Russia poses can be managed without bringing Ukraine into
NATO. Moving Ukraine toward membership in the alliance could make the problem
worse, turning Ukraine into the site of a prolonged showdown between the world’s two
leading nuclear powers and playing into Vladimir Putin’s narrative that he is fighting the
West in Ukraine rather than the people of Ukraine. The purpose of NATO is not to signal
esteem for other countries; it is to defend NATO territory and strengthen the security of
NATO members. Admitting Ukraine would reduce the security of the United States and
NATO Allies, at considerable risk to all.

Institutional affiliations are listed only for identification purposes; individuals have
signed strictly in their personal capacity.

James Acton, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Aisha Ahmad, University of Toronto
Robert J. Art, Brandeis University
Emma Ashford, Stimson Center
Andrew Bacevich, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Doug Bandow, Cato Institute
George Beebe, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Daniel Bessner, University of Washington
Brian Blankenship, University of Miami
Rachel Bovard, Conservative Partnership Institute
Dan Caldwell, Defense Priorities
Jasen J. Castillo, Bush School of Government, Texas A&M University
Ed Corrigan, Conservative Partnership Institute
Daniel Davis, Defense Priorities
Daniel R. DePetris, Chicago Tribune and Defense Priorities
Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame
Monica Duffy-Toft, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Jeffrey Engel, Southern Methodist University
Benjamin Friedman, Defense Priorities
John Allen Gay, John Quincy Adams Society
Eugene Gholz, University of Notre Dame
Peter Goettler, Cato Institute
Kelly A. Greico, Stimson Center
Mark Hannah, Institute for Global Affairs
Peter Harris, Colorado State University
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
John C. Hulsman, John C. Hulsman Enterprises
Van Jackson, Security in Context and Victoria University of Wellington
Jennifer Kavanagh, Defense Priorities
Edward King, Defense Priorities
Charles Kupchan, Council on Foreign Relations and Georgetown University
Anatol Lieven, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Jennifer Lind, Dartmouth College
Justin Logan, Cato Institute
Lora Lumpe, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Sumantra Maitra, American Ideas Institute and Center for Renewing America
Daniel McCarthy, Modern Age
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Arta Moeini, Institute for Peace and Diplomacy
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Lindsey A. O’Rourke, Boston College
George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Paul R. Pillar, Georgetown University
Patrick Porter, Cato Institute and University of Birmingham
Barry Posen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Stimson Center
Daryl G. Press, Dartmouth College
William Ruger, American Institute for Economic Research
John Schuessler, Bush School of Government, Texas A&M University
Joshua Shifrinson, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
Peter Slezkine, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
Reid Smith, Stand Together
Marc Trachtenberg, University of California, Los Angeles
Kelley B. Vlahos, Responsible Statecraft
Will Walldorf, Defense Priorities and Wake Forest University
Stephen M. Walt, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Jim Webb, Former Senator and Notre Dame International Security Center
Stephen Wertheim, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Christian Whiton, Center for the National Interest
Gavin Wilde, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

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