By Vasko Kohlmayer
It is hard not to be deeply shaken by the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine. Terrible though it may be, it was not, however, unexpected. By taking matters into his own hands, Vladimir Putin did what he had warned he would do in the years leading up to this crisis. Putin has always made it clear that NATO in Ukraine was a red line for Russia. Having realized that his concerns would never be properly addressed by his western counterparts, Putin decided to take radical action to stop the alliance’s expansion.
The Ukrainian people have already paid a heavy price, which will almost certainly grow much greater if this conflict is allowed to continue. And even though there is now no intention among the players involved to broaden the field of military operations, there is always a very real danger of escalation as these kinds of contingencies tend to be highly unpredictable.
There is, however, an easy way to put an end to this calamitous situation. This can be done by western guarantee that Ukraine will stay militarily neutral for the foreseeable future.
This is the only reasonable and moral course to take under present circumstances.
It is important to acknowledge the hard reality that Ukraine will not become part of NATO anytime soon. Vladimir Putin has made it sufficiently clear that he is not going to allow this to happen, and he is willing to fight to the death over this issue. It is not a fight we should get pulled into, not least because America does not have a vital national interest in Ukraine as such, much less in Ukraine being part of NATO. That by itself should suffice to keep us from confronting Putin over this matter.
Ukraine has never been part of NATO. Have we suffered some hardship, danger, distress, disadvantage, or loss because of it? Things were just fine for us – as well as the rest of the world – with Ukraine not being in NATO. Why should we now suddenly risk a conflict with Russia over Ukraine’s entry into that organization?
We also need to keep in mind that if we should foolishly engage Putin in some kind of military fashion, such a clash could easily escalate into a nuclear exchange which would almost certainly end in mutual annihilation or something close to it.
By guaranteeing Ukraine’s military neutrality, we would not lose anything we did not have before. The fact is that for much of their history Ukrainian territories have either been part of Russia or within Russian sphere of influence. Ukraine has never been an integral part of the western military apparatus. To insist that it becomes part of it at this point in time is irresponsible and reckless.
By agreeing to Ukraine not being part of NATO, nothing would be taken away from us. We would neither be militarily weakened, nor would we be impoverished economically. Ukraine’s absence from NATO does not put us in any worse position than we were a week ago, a year ago or a decade ago. Has Ukraine not being in NATO ever been a serious problem for us?
Everything considered, the status quo has been very good. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly thirty-three years ago, most of Europe felt safer than ever before. It is difficult to remember any period in history when the majority of Europeans felt so safe and secure. This happy state of affairs, however, has been needlessly undermined by the notion of expanding NATO all the way to Russia’s lengthy border with Ukraine. It is because of this misguided idea and the insensitivity with which it has been pursued that large areas of Europe now justifiably fear the possibility of war. Europe suddenly does not feel so safe and stable anymore.
It is, however, not only the safety of Europe that has been deeply shaken. Americans should start worrying too as Putin has begun rattling his nuclear sabre. We have all heard that he has placed Russia’s nuclear armaments on high alert. What you have probably not heard is that the other day a Russian nuclear submarine suddenly emerged off the coast of the United States. It apparently arrived there undetected by US tracking systems. This submarine carries 150 nuclear heads. Just the payload of this one Russian underwater craft could end the United States as we know it.
Given that Ukraine is not of vital national interest to America, we need to seriously ask ourselves this question: Do we want to be potentially annihilated over the issue of Ukrainian NATO membership?
The expansion of NATO to the Russian border is an overreach by western globalists. Seeking to tip the existing balance of power between the West and Russia, it is a provocation that could not but invite a response. John F. Kennedy was seen as a national hero by his firm stand against the Soviet Union when it sought to establish a military base in Cuba. Cuba does not even have border with the United States and our capital is much further from the edge of that country than Moscow is from the Ukrainian border. And yet we could have not tolerated Soviet presence on that island.
When Putin pleaded with and then warned NATO not to seek a similar arrangement for Ukraine, he was haughtily dismissed by western elitists such as Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, former Prime Minister of Norway. And now they claim they are shocked and repulsed by Russia’s actions. They are either naïve or disingenuous. I suspect that latter is the case.
Keeping Ukraine neutral does not mean that Ukraine will somehow be lost to the West. It will continue to be a part of the global community and member of many of its organizations, associations and arrangements. Ukraine’s international situation will be as it was before.
It also does not mean that Ukraine may not be able to eventually enter the western military alliance. The neutrality agreement can include provisions that would allow for this issue to be revisited and renegotiated at some point in the future.
Be that as it may, it is highly irresponsible now to insist that Ukraine retain the option of joining the alliance in the short or medium term, because the Russians have made it amply clear that they will simply not allow this to occur. This is the red line for them, which is something we should respect, especially since their position is not at all unreasonable. We must understand that the Russians feel the same about NATO in Ukraine as we would feel about a Russian base in Cuba.
The world is on the edge now and the Ukrainian people are experiencing the agony of suffering and death. They stand no chance against the onslaught of the much superior Russian forces, which have been so far acting with relative restraint. Contrary to what we have been hearing from the media, Putin has been trying to minimize the loss of life. Once the Russians switch into full fire mode, however, the Ukrainian people will be dying by tens of thousands.
This can be prevented by granting Ukraine military neutrality.
We must seek peace in the world and cessation of the suffering of the Ukrainian people. It would be immoral not to act this way, especially because we do not have to give up anything that we had before.
Not agreeing to Ukraine’s neutrality will cause untold suffering to the brave people of Ukraine in a war they cannot win. It also runs the risk of a wider military confrontation with potential for a nuclear flare up.
To pursue anything other than peace in this situation would be an act of great moral, human and strategic failure.
Vasko Kohlmayer was born and grew up in former communist Czechoslovakia. You can follow his writings by subscribing to his Substack newsletter ’Notes from the Twilight Zone’. He is the author of The West in Crisis: Civilizations and Their Death Drives.