The US foreign policy establishment should be taking Vladimir Putin’s warning that he will not tolerate Ukraine in NATO far more seriously than it is. Fighting a war with Russia over Ukraine would be breathtakingly stupid. From Patrick Buchanan at buchanan.org:
Either the U.S. and NATO provide us with “legal guarantees” that Ukraine will never join NATO or become a base for weapons that can threaten Russia — or we will go in and guarantee it ourselves.
This is the message Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending, backed by the 100,000 troops Russia has amassed on Ukraine’s borders.
At the Kremlin last week, Putin drew his red line:
“The threat on our western borders is … rising, as we have said multiple times. … In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.”
That comes close to an ultimatum. And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg backhanded the President of Russia for issuing it:
“It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. … Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.”
Yet, great powers have always established spheres of influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping claims virtually the entire South China Sea that is bordered by half a dozen nations. For 200 years, the United States has declared a Monroe Doctrine that puts our hemisphere off-limits to new colonizations.
Moreover, Putin wants to speak to the real decider of the question as to whether Ukraine joins NATO or receives weapons that can threaten Russia. And the decider is not Jens Stoltenberg but President Joe Biden.