Ukraine's President Zelensky should not be putting pressure for NATO membership now. It raises the risk of a wider war, and the focus should be on continuing arms deliveries from the West. After all, peace will be decided on the battlefield.
Nine NATO member states from Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are now putting pressure on the military alliance to welcome Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for "accelerated accession."
As understandable as it is that his country wants to join a strong defensive military alliance like NATO, the timing is wrong. Of course, we must acknowledge the Ukrainian people's heroic fight for survival. But Zelensky must be careful not to overstretch the West's willingness to support him.
It is right for Ukraine's president to repeatedly call for battle tanks. They are necessary to launch a successful, and sustainable, counteroffensives in the east of the country. It is right for Zelensky to demand more financial support from the EU, even if Brussels must not forget other regions such as Tajikistan, Yemen or Sudan that are also facing crises.
If Ukraine joins NATO, NATO must join the war
But a quick NATO accession of Ukraine now would be fundamentally wrong.
If Ukraine were to quickly become a new NATO member, this would likely drag the alliance into the Ukraine war because of the alliance obligation to defend other members, as stated by Article 5.
Or it would irritate Russian President Vladimir Putin to such an extent that he would become much more unpredictable, escalate further dramatically — probably even with biological and chemical agents (not to mention the nuclear risk).
At the same time, the ranks within the Russian elites would close ranks in support of the Kremlin.
At a demonstration in support of Ukraine with a sign reading ''A friend in need is a real friend'' in Hessen, Germany
The time for joining was 2008
It was a grave mistake for former Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with then-President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, to reject swift NATO accession for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. Numerous NATO countries, including the United States, rightly criticized this decision.
But the Franco-German tandem was unmovable in its policy of dialogue with Putin, who at the time had already revealed his ruthlessness with the invasion of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and Ossetia. But this historic mistake cannot be fixed by accelerating the NATO joining process for 2022 or 2023.
Germany, which has a historic war debt to Ukraine, should lead the way
The debate about NATO membership is not helping Kyiv at the moment. Joining in the next five to eight years is completely unrealistic.
Zelensky should focus on arms deliveries
Ukraine's President Zelensky should not overestimate the West's willingness to provide support. More important are further deliveries of weapons because it is on the battlefield that peace will be decided. Zelensky should now push much harder for arms deliveries.
He should finally publicly address the cowardice of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is hiding behind Washington in providing battle tanks because he does not want to be the first battle tank supplier.
At the same time, Germany in particular, which has a historic war debt to Ukraine, should lead the way.
Why? The better the weapons Ukraine receives from the West, the more successful Ukraine's brave soldiers will be. The battlefield will determine what peace negotiations will look like. And Ukraine's NATO membership could remain forever out of the question if Moscow eventually finds itself in the position of being able to dictate the terms of peace from a strong position.
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