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Korybko To Timofei Bordachev: You’re Right About NATO Enlargement Being A Threat To The US
This esteemed expert's words ring true after Kiev made no tangible progress on joining NATO despite the hype leading up to this week’s summit. Its de facto military-political relations with the bloc were simply formalized while members superficially repeated their rhetoric about it being able to join one day once vague conditions are met and agreed upon by all. The pragmatic faction of the US’ policymaking bureaucracy clearly beat the ideological one that wanted Ukraine to become a member right away.
Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev published a piece at RT on Wednesday about “why the US will almost certainly never allow Ukraine to join NATO”. The subtitle declares that “Kiev has to face up to some bad news – for the first time, NATO enlargement has become a threat to Washington itself.” This esteemed expert explained the US’ proxy-patron relations with NATO members in detail throughout most of his article before concluding on the following note:
“Inviting Kiev to join NATO could mean something entirely new for American foreign policy – a willingness to fight a peer adversary like Russia. Throughout their history, Americans have shied away from this, using other players as battering rams willing to sacrifice and suffer for American interests.
This was the case in both the First and Second World Wars.
The most likely scenario, therefore, is that the US will limit itself to promising to address the issue of Ukraine and NATO after the Kiev regime has resolved its problems with Russia in one way or another. In the meantime, it will only be promised some ‘special’ terms on a bilateral basis.”
His words ring true after Kiev made no tangible progress on joining NATO despite the hype leading up to this week’s summit. Its de facto military-political relations with the bloc were simply formalized while members superficially repeated their rhetoric about it being able to join one day once vague conditions are met and agreed upon by all. The pragmatic faction of the US’ policymaking bureaucracy clearly beat the ideological one that wanted Ukraine to become a member right away.
The former has been rising in influence and returning to its leading Trump-era role over the past seventeen months after the latter’s envisaged world order failed to come to fruition despite them trying to force it into being throughout this period. It took some time for the pragmatists to return to the fore of policymaking prominence, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll remain there, but this week’s triumph was foreseeable after they succeeded in recalibrating the US’ policy towards India last month.
Prior to Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the US, the ideologues had waged an intense pressure campaign against his country aimed at coercing it into condemning and sanctioning Russia, though this spectacularly failed after India publicly defied them every time they tried. It even risked being counterproductive since the US’ hard-earned trust with India was rapidly eroding as a result, which prompted pragmatists like Ashely J. Tellis to spring into action two months ago.
He published a seminal piece in the influential Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) official magazine, Foreign Affairs, arguing that the US must respect India’s strategic autonomy in order to salvage its Indo-Pacific policy that was on the brink of being destroyed by its own hand due to this pressure campaign. One month later in early June, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner confirmed during a think tank event that Tellis’ article was widely discussed among policymakers.
In retrospect, it directly led to the recalibration of US policy towards India, which in turn represented the most significant victory of the pragmatist faction up until that point. “The US Finally Realized The Futility Of Trying To Force India Into Vassalhood”, though “Obama’s Words About India’s Balkanization Show That Liberal-Globalists Are Still A Threat”. Nevertheless, the pragmatists proved that they can get policymakers to shift gears after their ideological rivals’ policy towards that Great Power failed.
As was earlier written, there’s no guarantee that they’ll remain at the fore of policymaking prominence, but the lackluster outcome of this week’s NATO Summit strongly suggests that it’ll be very difficult for their competitors to dislodge them from this position anytime soon. The pragmatists immediately seized the policymaking momentum from their victory in recalibrating US policy towards India to compellingly argue that it’s long overdue for the US to reconsider its approach towards Russia too.
This also manifested itself in an article that was published last week in CFR’s Foreign Affairs telling policymakers “Don’t Let Ukraine Join NATO”, which served as the second prominent example of pragmatists flexing their newfound influence to shape the debate on major geopolitical issues. The advice shared by the Cato Institute’s Justin Logan and Joshua Shifrinson was heeded in hindsight as proven by NATO declining to invite Ukraine to join the bloc despite some’s expectation to the contrary.
Although the Valdai Club’s Bordachev and the CFR’s three cited experts support Russian and US interests respectively, they share a similarly pragmatic view towards International Relations and the associated advice that they share with their country’s policymakers. Each espouses a Neo-Realist approach that candidly takes into account deniable realities and the limits that these place on policy, which is why the two national variants of this school oppose Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
They correctly predict that it would recklessly risk World War III due to the way in which this scenario spikes the chance of a direct clash between Russia and the US. Although Article 5 doesn’t mandate the use of armed force but only “such action as [a member state] deems necessary” to assist those under attack, Russia would have to assume that preemptively thwarting imminent threats emanating from Ukraine or responding to an attack from there would lead to war with the US.
Accordingly, policymakers might decide to strike that country and its European assets first in order to comparatively mitigate the damage that they’d be expected to inflict against Russia per Moscow’s interpretation of Article 5 in that scenario, thus making World War III inevitable. This sequence of events could be averted by keeping Ukraine out of NATO and thus decreasing the chances of a direct clash between these nuclear superpowers no matter how intense their proxy war in that country becomes.
It was wise for that bloc to make no tangible progress on Ukraine’s membership during this week’s summit in light of how Russia officially assesses the US’ dispatch of cluster munitions to Kiev and its planned acquisition of F-16s. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the former as “a game-changer [that] will certainly force Russia to take specific steps in response” while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that “Russia can’t ignore the ability of these aircraft to carry nuclear weapons.”
These escalations are driven by the West’s desperation to keep Kiev’s failed counteroffensive alive until winter in a last-ditch attempt for their proxy to gain some ground ahead of the seemingly inevitable resumption of Russian-Ukrainian talks that’s expected to occur around that time as explained here. They’ve already depleted their stockpiles so they’re now relying on increasingly more provocative exports such as the abovementioned ones and supplies from partners like Pakistan to this end.
Even so, the NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine remains much more manageable than if that country was a NATO member with Article 5’s security guarantees, which is why it’s in the US’ interests for it not to join exactly as Bordachev and the CFR’s experts from the Cato Institute argued. As long as there’s no credible chance that the US might support Kiev with armed force, then World War III isn’t all that likely, though everything could suddenly change if the ideologues regain policymaking influence on this issue.