What can Ukraine expect after the Kremlin’s latest diplomatic stunts

14 January 2022, 06:57 PM

Moscow’s diplomacy has a habit of asking for much, hoping to get what little it can.

I’m rather satisfied with how the United States – Russia talks went on Jan. 10. Moscow’s whims were firmly rebuffed. The United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman harshly and uncharacteristically, plainly, told Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov that “rolling NATO back to its 1997 borders” is out of the question.

Video of day

Discussing a possible NATO pledge to never admit new members is, similarly, a non-starter. The only thing the U.S. delegation agreed to was further talks on arms reduction treaties.

I think that after getting rejected in both Brussels and Vienna, Russian envoys will return to their “Third Rome,” in deep thought as to how should they break the bad news to their “chief executive.”

Kremlin assigned career diplomats to try and pull this foreign policy stunt. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, being the experienced diplomat that he is, foresaw the futility of these ultimatums and promptly delegated his deputy for this week-long tour of humiliation.

Moscow’s diplomacy has a habit of asking for much, hoping to get what little it can.

Even if a NATO retreat is a pipe-dream, Russia would have settled for keeping Ukraine and Georgia as bargaining chips.

But these are different times, and their coercive “highwayman diplomacy” isn’t getting Moscow anything at all.

European Union member states, the United Kingdom, the United States – none of them are spoiling for a fight and would all much rather have normal relationships with a normal country; except Russia has long since ceased to be a normal country. Even the countries that seek friendly relationships with Moscow due to their economic circumstance now clearly understand that some things cannot be tolerated.

The unity with which all 30 NATO members rejected Russia’s capricious demands is a welcome novelty.

This farcical diplomatic drama was doomed from its inception, and could not be saved even by Russia’s usual friends.

Now, let’s turn to Ukraine’s prospects of getting a NATO Membership Action Plan. Once Ukraine, through its hard work, manages to show the alliance’s heads and individual member states that we’ve “done our homework”, membership will become a question of political will and decision.

It’s hardly a secret that by many metrics, Ukraine already eclipses a number of NATO members. In matters of military construction, we are well above average, unlike some members of the alliance.

We still need to check several boxes, though: reform our SBU security service and judiciary, get rid of the oligarchical stranglehold on our economy. But pending the completion of those tasks, even the more skeptical members would lose the grounds for their objections, provided that Russia proceeds with its absurd foreign policy. And it’s not a question of whether the next NATO summit in June will give us a concrete timeframe for accession, like, say, 2026 – that’s not going to happen.

A more realistic result would be to get the exact criteria we must satisfy on this final stretch towards the MAP, and get them in writing. Then, with some skillful diplomatic maneuvering, alliance skeptics could be persuaded that their intractability is irrational and contrary to NATO’s interests.

The same countries that blocked Ukraine getting a MAP back in 2008 – Germany, France, the Netherlands – are apprehensive about our prospective membership today. They have since been joined by Hungary, who is only eager to do Moscow’s bidding on some issues.

But their minds can be readily changed, if we had the support of the vast majority of the NATO membership. If we can get the other 26 on our side and join forces with them, the stubborn four would have little luck insisting on their objections. Such intense determination would look like political lunacy, leading to a political defeat that no leader could sustain.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google News

Ukraine Today
Fresh daily newsletter covering the top headlines and developments in Ukraine
Daily at 9am EST
Show more news