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Biden Sidesteps WWIII - Two Perspectives

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

by Nicholas Diaz and Charles Arencibia

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Perspective One

by Nicholas Diaz

In a CNN interview on Sunday, President Joe Biden said, “I don’t think [Ukraine] is ready for membership in NATO." He added, “I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of the war.”

Neither Ukraine nor NATO is ready for Ukrainian membership in NATO at the current moment. This lack of readiness means the inclusion of Ukraine in the military alliance will need time.

Ukraine would benefit immensely from joining NATO as membership in the alliance would guarantee protection from allies due to the Article 5 Clause that considers an attack on one alliance member as an attack on all. This would give Ukraine full assurance of protection that would be difficult to attain through other means.

It would be a significant upgrade from Ukraine’s current situation which relies on unguaranteed assistance in the form of funding commitments, for example. Although such assistance does help, “it will be unacceptable to replace full-fledged NATO membership with any assurances,” as Yehor Cherniev, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, told TIME.

Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, agrees. “There’s no guarantee without a treaty,” he said. Membership in NATO is the ultimate aim for Ukraine.

However, Ukraine is not ready for such membership. It must still meet requirements to join the alliance, requirements that every other member has met.

Although allied countries “agreed to remove the requirements for membership action,” according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who made that announcement just today, there are still conditions to be met. Ukraine’s membership path has been reduced from a “two-step process to a one-step process,” yet remains a process.

In his interview, Biden spoke about democratization and war requirements that Ukraine must still meet. Ukraine cannot join during a time of war and must further democratize if it seeks to join the democratic military alliance.

NATO is not ready for Ukraine's membership either. Although Stoltenberg reaffirmed that the country “will become a member of NATO,” the country cannot join at this time.

NATO is not prepared to go to war with Russia, which would be guaranteed if Ukraine joined now. Such a war would be disastrous for all parties involved and potentially start a third world war, as a Russian Security Council was reported saying. That is why the NATO-Ukraine Council was formed for the alliance members to cooperate with the country without full-fledged Ukrainian membership which will come in time.

Some fear that this waiting game will not deter Russia but rather escalate the conflict. This was proven after the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, which hosted discussions of potential membership for Ukraine and Georgia but without certainty.

As Kyiv security correspondent Gordon Corera writes for the BBC, “That angered Russia but without offering any protection in return. Georgia was attacked in 2008 by Russia, and Ukraine attacked too - first in 2014 and then in 2022. Many of those US officials involved in the decision in Bucharest now acknowledge it was a mistake.”

There is fear that this will occur again, which is why Ukraine seeks greater assurance and Ukrainian officials argue that the country is ready for membership. However, these concerns are addressed by NATO’s reaffirmation that Ukraine shall become a member of NATO. All that is required is the meeting of certain preconditions and de-escelation of the war.

Perspective Two

by Charles Arencibia

Rules & Regulations

Recently, President Biden suggested that NATO holds off on making Ukraine a member until war ends with Russia. Biden argues that this decision was based on complications in following the NATO Membership Action Plan, which requires Ukraine to make military and democratic reform. Biden’s requirements are accurate to NATO rules and codes, but it may be less about the rules and more about avoiding war with Russia.

When asked about the reasoning behind this delay in Ukrainian membership in NATO.

Biden stated, “No. Because they’ve got to meet the same standards. So we’re not going to make it easy.”

This implies that he could accept Ukraine into NATO, seeing as the United States has enormous influence within the organization due to “the volume of US defense expenditure representing approximately two-thirds of the defense spending of the Alliance as a whole,” according to NATO.

Biden’s delaying of NATO membership may be based on one of the critical NATO articles.

World War III & Article V

Biden may be attempting to sidestep the next world war by avoiding a NATO-Russia confrontation. If Ukraine were to join NATO at this time, it would activate Article V which would put 31 countries including many developed European nations against Russia.

The Poland Missile Crisis occurred in November of 2022, in which a Russian missile killed two Polish farmers in a village on the border of Ukraine and Poland. Due to Poland's membership in NATO, tension was raised and the possibility of NATO interference in the war seemed within reach. It never escalated beyond an acknowledgment of the event's unfortunate nature and loss of life.

Poland released a statement, assuming that it was just a misfire from Ukraine and was just a “single act.” Minimizing the death of two Polish citizens to a “single act” may be an attempt to not engage or investigate the possibility of Russian aggression or negligence.

Biden may be attempting a similar strategy to avoid Russia by sidestepping his way out of a forced conflict.

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