The first was a a sit down press briefing by President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Erdogan. President Biden could not level more praise upon his counterpart.
This sycophantic performance was reminiscent of President Biden’s recent adulation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows but there should be a limit to duplicity.
And then there was poor Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: frankly, he was carrying out a mission as instructed, in particular, by the United States. At a press conference he kept repeating the same line to all questions, reiterating ad nauseam the package that Ukraine was receiving. But all questions were not the same. A Ukrainian press representative asked Stoltenberg what conditions had to be met by Ukraine to receive a NATO invitation. Stoltenberg ignored that question entirely. At one point an exasperated Secretary General replied that Ukraine’s membership in NATO will not be an issue at all if Ukraine loses the war.
The Ukrainian package consisted of multi-annual aid, formation of a NATO-Ukraine council rather than committee, and a one step process eliminating the MAP requirement. The promise of multi-annual aid is not enforceable and may be withdrawn at any time. Russia had a NATO council arrangement with no efficacy. There is no such structure in the NATO Charter except for NATO members forming a council. Finally, the two step process has become anachronistic since both Finland and now Sweden did not have to encounter MAP. The NATO Charter is silent on MAP in any event and speaks strictly of invitation. So, in essence, Ukraine received nothing of substance.
Naturally, Ukraine’s President was deeply disappointed and said so. He recognizes that global security continues to depend entirely on the lives of Ukrainians alone. Russia had been in a no win situation. It certainly could not conquer all of Ukraine. At best it could retain its 2014 ill begotten gains of Ukrainian territory and not much more. Russian president Putin has become a global pariah and is under an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court. The Vilnius Summit gave Russia and Putin new life with a possibility for rehabilitation. A good day for Russia and a bad day for Ukraine makes the world less safe.
Where does Ukraine go from here? The war itself has proven that mostly Ukraine has been right and the U.S. has been wrong. Ukraine asks for weapons. America replies you do not need them. Time passes, Russian brutality increases and America relents belatedly to Ukrainian requests. The most recent examples are the F16’s and cluster munitions.
Patriotic Americans naively came away with a message for Russia that NATO is very much alive. Russia received an entirely different message – that appeasement continues to be America’s policy and that no matter how brutal Russia is, America will forgive and look for a diplomatic off ramp. This is an inveterate weakness of American foreign policy going back one hundred years.
There is no easy solution. America and President Biden have to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, the hard way is very costly in terms of life and infrastructure for Ukraine. NATO membership for Ukraine would have sent a loud and overwhelming message to Russia that there are only two options: withdraw entirely or face the dissolution of the Russian empire.
Perhaps, in the long term, because of the protracted time American and President Biden’s fecklessness will serve to rid the world of the evil empire.
A prolonged war will enable civil unrest and national uprisings with the Russian Federation, including a successful coup and maybe more than one. If instability is what President Biden sought to avoid, ironically, precisely that will ensue. There will be great costs. For America and its NATO allies the costs will be enormous, particularly, financial and perhaps, political.
For Ukraine the cost will be dearer. Human lives cannot be monetised!