In terms of PR and its own identity, the failure to support Ukraine will reverberate for decades to come, Martin Jay writes.
Far from NATO being emboldened and “united”, despite the military drills in backwaters like Norway which mainstream media dutifully accept being spoon fed, the organisation itself is likely to become even more ineffective, weak and poorly managed than ever before once the Ukraine crisis is over.
That doesn’t mean it might not expand. There are one or two candidates which are mulling such a move like Finland. But in terms of its clout on the world stage, the Ukraine crisis has shown that the powerful nations behind NATO are quite happy with it being a somnolent power which has the resources which it is unlikely ever to use in a standoff with Russia. The danger of being weak, which is clear to see with the Ukraine situation where NATO hasn’t the courage to threaten Putin with a nuclear or even conventional war, is that people remember it for a very long time and in terms of PR and its own identity, the failure to support Ukraine will reverberate for decades to come. While Finland might ponder the pros and cons of joining NATO, others, like Balkan countries may well be thinking that it is better to reap the cash benefits and corruption possibilities for EU membership while playing a cool hand with Moscow and staying out of NATO. Many will just ask “what is the point?”. In the end, it wasn’t NATO which helped Ukraine but individual member states like the UK, France and Germany with effective military hardware without sending troops on the ground. And so in joining NATO, new members in the Balkans immediately draw the wrath of Moscow as they paint a cross on their backs as their countries become a playground for world powers to flex their muscles.
NATO has lost, rather than gained, so much credibility as all that those in the West whose countries make up the ‘big guns’ can remember is its buffoonish chief waving his arms around at press conferences and talking. And talking.
But actions speak so much louder than words. And no one knows that more than Zelensky who has been watching Joe Biden meddle with Ukrainian politics since 2014 where he was part of a plot to install Poroshenko into power, a leader who, despite being a western ideologue, was ousted essentially for corruption and mismanagement on a grand scale. Biden in 2015 talked the talk then, when Poroshenko was elected, and he talks the talk today. No fly zone from either NATO or the U.S. will be his position when he takes the podium in Brussels at a special meeting in the Belgian capital.
The theme of meddling in the domestic politics of countries that are politically finding their own feet after the fall of communism, by backing so-called “revolutions” but then failing to support their friends when the blood starts to flow is really what Biden is all about. And this is really NATO’s problem as well as the EU’s as the implications will be felt even more so by Europeans than Americans. NATO members might well harangue Biden at the meeting to consider a partial no fly zone, but even on a practical level, it’s hard to imagine Pentagon advisors going with it as Ukraine is so huge that it would be hard to implement. Furthermore, how would a no fly zone work against Russian aircraft which stay in Russian airspace and deliver their arsenal from afar?
It’s not hard to work out what is the core of the reasons why Ukraine is at war. Biden is weak and Putin strong, although by the same token we shouldn’t pander to the Trump camp’s lame allusion that things would have been different if The Donald was in the White House. Trump proved to be also quite yellow when it came to going to war with Iran when Tehran provoked a war by a drone strike in the summer of 2019. American presidents, regardless of political colours, have lost their courage for going the extra mile in enforcing U.S. foreign policy around the world and faced with a no-nonsense Russian leader like Putin become pathetic. How could NATO, led by the U.S., ever be effective if American leaders only constantly polish and admire their factory greased still-in-the-wrapper weaponry, confident that it will never be used to uphold the core principles of the treaty’s Article 5? Countries like Poland, Romania and Slovakia are left wondering if NATO would have the courage to fight in those territories in the event of a Russian conflict. No one is interested in looking at the bigger picture and holding the West to account for lying to Russia since the early 90s about halting expansion or America’s dangerous meddling in regional politics. Or corruption. How, after all, does a former comic who becomes president on an anti-corruption ticket, end up with share options worth 600 million dollars?