by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Just as the family budget is not really a very good model of the national economy, schoolyard rules are not normally the best guide for international relations. That being said, sometimes the best thing for a bully is giving him a bloody nose.
With China having comprehensively eclipsed Russia as the baddest bad actor among nation-states on the world stage, Vladimir Putin is begging for attention from the West. Perhaps it is time to give him some.
Putin, already having invaded and annexed part of Ukraine in 2014, has threatened further war on Ukraine and attempted to intimidate the country and its Western allies with a massive troop buildup throughout December. Now, he demands that the United States and its allies promise that there will be no expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), ever, as the price of peace with Russia.
NATO has been slow-walking Ukraine’s membership since the 1990s. But the country is, at least formally, on track to become a full NATO member. In 2008, NATO and Ukraine agreed to an accession plan, with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg specifically affirming that Russia would not be permitted to veto Ukraine’s membership. As recently as June of this year, NATO reiterated its commitment to Ukraine. And now Putin demands that which NATO has specifically denied him: veto power over NATO membership decisions.
Because we are so accustomed to outrages from Russia, we do not seem to really appreciate how outrageous this is. Ukraine is a sovereign nation that can decide for itself which international organizations to join; NATO is an organization of sovereign states, including the United States, that can decide for itself what its policies will be and to whom it will offer membership. Russia is a third-rate gangster state whose idiotic policies have immiserated its people.