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Ukraine Belongs in NATO

Ukraine Belongs in NATO

In a recent commentary, I itemized all things I would have done from the time Russian madman Vladimir Putin started surrounding Ukraine to today.  I did omit one important action.  I would have proposed that Ukraine be admitted to NATO before the invasion.

In fact, I had proposed bringing Ukraine into NATO even before President Zelenskyy’s election.  Had we done that, there would not likely have been an invasion because of Article 5 that requires all NATO nations to come to the defense of any one member attacked by an aggressor.

Neither the Trump nor the Biden administrations pursued an invitation to Ukraine because they did not want to upset Putin.  Trump’s Ukraine policy was prior to the invasion.  For Trump it was a matter of maintaining the status quo.  While Putin was occupying the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, there was no immediate fear of an all-out invasion.  In fact, most of the folks in Washington did not believe there would be a full invasion until Putin started amassing troops on the Ukrainian border.

The Trump administration viewed the admission of Ukraine into NATO as provocative and destabilizing of the status quo.  The Trump policy of maintaining the status quo carried over to the Biden Administration’s first year in office.

Then there was the buildup followed by the invasion.   That was the moment when Biden needed to change the policy and the rhetoric.  NATO should have immediately accepted a request from Ukraine to join NATO.  It certainly could not be accepted in time to prevent the invasion.  But it would have sent a message to Putin that the United States and NATO considered Ukraine an important ally.

Biden, however, blinked.  He signaled that the United States would not back the admission of Ukraine into NATO – even offering that up as a condition of a peaceful cease fire.  If they believed that acquiescence to Putin on Ukraine joining NATO would have prevented an invasion, they should have known better.  

In fact, they did know better.  Even before the Russian military started to amass on three sides of Ukraine, western intelligence was aware of the planned invasion.  Conceding Ukraine’s membership in NATO at that moment implied a lesser interest in the protection of Ukraine from Russian aggression.  It was the wrong signal at the wrong time.   Along with his NATO concession to Putin, Biden’s public statements that we would not put boots on the ground in Ukraine – or send sophisticated weaponry – gave Putin a green light for his invasion.

So, now, what do we do?

Biden recently stated that it is not the time to talk about Ukraine joining NATO.   Technically, Biden is right.  The process is too cumbersome to think Ukraine could become a member in the immediate future.  Then there is the question of Article 5.  As a NATO member, Ukraine would have the entire military force of the Alliance in action.  I do not think that would have triggered a World War III since Putin has no allies on his side willing to fight for his stupid quest for a new Soviet Union.

But Biden’s tone was totally wrong.  He basically dismissed the idea – implying that there was no reason to talk about it in the near future.  He still seems to be holding it out as a concession in future peace negotiations.

I tend to agree with General Wesley Clark, who believes that we should tell Putin now — in no uncertain terms — that Ukraine will be in NATO in the future even if Putin maintains control of the Crimea and Donbass Region – and that is non-negotiable.  As long as Putin thinks NATO membership is a bargaining chip, he will be encouraged to pursue his empire building ambitions.

Following Biden’s lead – unfortunately – NATO issued a statement supporting the POSSIBILITY of membership at some unspecified time in the future when unspecified conditions are met.  That left open that Ukraine may never be invited to join the Alliance.  It was less than a commitment.  Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was not pleased.  He called any language that did not include a time frame was “absurd.”  In a tweet, Zelenskyy complained that the wording of the NATO statement was being discussed without the participation of Ukraine.

It was reported that Biden and the United States delegation were “furious” over Zelenskyy’s tweet.  It was both courageous and correct to call out the NATO leadership – and the United States — for such a tepid and vague statement.

The consideration of Ukraine’s membership in NATO is another example of Biden’s too little/too late polices that have prevented an early Ukraine victory.  Ukraine should be treated like Finland and Sweden – both of which got a quick assurance of membership at some point in the near future – as soon as any barriers or objections could be overcome.  With the final agreement by Turkey to admit Sweden, the two Nordic nations are the newest members.  That should be the same procedure applied to Ukraine – an assurance of future membership.

Ukraine needs to be in NATO – and NATO needs Ukraine as a critical member, giving the Alliance hundreds of more miles of border with Russia and access to the Azov Sea (which becomes an internal Russian body of water under the current occupation).  It also gives NATO a greater strategic shoreline on the Black Sea.  It brings enormous assets and natural resources to NATO.

Ukraine belongs in NATO asap … period.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. frank stetson

    While having Ukraine in NATO before Putin began his build-up would have stopped the war from starting, wasn’t Ukraine totally corrupt until Zelensky takes office in 2019? Under Poroshenko since 1965, the candy oligarch aligned with Putin, who ultimately fled the country, to Russia, being hunted by Zelensky, and the law. Pretty sure that would not past muster to get into Ukraine.

    Then, would any prudent country let Ukraine in with Zelensky on day one in 2019? I mean Trump thought he could buy him off in mid-2019 with the famous “I would like you to do us a favor” call as he illegally held back Congressional approved Ukrainian defense funds and weapons, so would NATO accept “that kind” of country?

    And, of course, once Putin enters in 2022 the NATO game is pretty much over unless we are ready to declare world war III. It’s the same given NATO Article 5. Which we might someday, just not today, IMO.

    That gives you between 2019 to 2022 to have Ukraine enter NATO with sliding scales as in — how long after Zelensky’s 2019 inauguration would we feel Ukraine is not corrupt (not 100% sure we are there yet, but pretty sure) OR how close to 2022 can we get as Putin begins his build-up.

    But there is a window and I agree, in a perfect world, either Trump or Biden could have, and should have, slipped Ukraine into NATO, even if they had to buy off Turkey to do it.

    • larry Horist

      Frank Stetson … We believe to have found an area of fundamental agreement. Ukraine was a kleptocracy prior to Zelenskyy. We could have … and should have … begun the process for admission early in his administration. It may have cooled Putin’s heals. I do not think Putin would have been prepared for an invasion at that time. Trump should have pursued membership for Ukraine. That was a huge mistake — probably due to his overly solicitous relationship with Putin. Biden followed with his own lack of action — another mistake. Biden had to buy off Turkey to get Sweden in … so why not Ukraine?

      Just curious. If you see the possibility of a World War III, who signs up with Russia?

      • frank stetson

        Mr. Horist, responding to your Tom retort too.

        Yes, Trump, Biden, both had a chance to bring Ukraine into NATO, I agree, however, the window to approve of the Zelensky house cleaning —- not sure we are there yet. Afterall, this could be an act of democracy that will disappear with the Russians. But all sure looks good, really good so far. Guy’s gonna be canonized soon. And yes, it looks like Turkey can be bought, Sudan was bought for the Abrahams too.

        “I think you claim that Trump left NATO in shambles is a gross exaggeration.” IMO, NATO under Trump was a shambles and instantly repaired when he left. They all hated the man, basically just tried to avoid him and not engage. On the money: “Trump got NATO member pick up more of their financial obligations” is probably true but it’s a mess to figure out. His statement that they were delinquent is a lie. They had, by agreement, until 2024 to meet the 2% GDP milepost. The final answer should just be math, but because it’s a 2% GDP tithe, that’s a moving target. Plus, it can include indirect funding (biggest component but in-country use mostly), direct funding (NATO funding) to cover three different NATO budgets (headquarters, command structure, and military infrastructure). Most expenditures are in-country, as in buying stuff for your own guys used in your own country. The NATO budgets are for the centralized shit to coordinate. Plus, countries can have joint projects considered NATO projects, we do this a lot cuz we like to have some friends when we drop the big ones (budgets that is) to put our stuff over there. While it’s just basic math, it’s really confusing from how much you owe to how much did you spend. For example, if Poland adds a soldier on the Russian border to pick daisies, is that NATO?

        Trump, and others, quote $100B as the increase potentially attributed to Trump NATO bashing; the 2023 NATO budget is $1.26T —- if Trump’s increase was a tree falling in the forest, no one heard it. They were never delinquent, they gave Trump the nod for the increase probably just to shut him up, and it was a nit. The more you scream at someone to do something, the more likely they are to cheat just to shut you up. That’s the Trumpian way.

        Come on man, if Obama sent arms to Ukraine you would be screaming, he gave them to Putin through the corrupt Ukraine under Putin’s control.

        This has been stupid from the day Trump said he made NATO; NATO had more money and more members when Trump left office than they did when he entered. Yeah, a nothing increases plus the addition of Montenegro and North Macedonia. Under Biden’s first two years, we have Finland, and soon Sweden. At least I know where those countries are.
        Yes, Biden could have moved the Afghan date; he could have done this one better, but I am glad he got it done and no matter what, the outcome re: the Taliban would be the same no matter how much longer you dropped your bombs there.

  2. Tom

    Larry, you say little to nothing about Trump but go to great lengths to criticize Biden on this one. I think a critical fact you forgot to mention is that Trump left NATO in a shambles. He wanted to leave it and had he been elected, he would have. Even Putin in one of his speeches said, “As long as Trump is president he is not worried about NATO because Trump is doing a good job at destroying it himself. ” You seem to forget this fact as well as the fact that Frank mentions that Trump wanted to withhold arms so that he could get Biden investigated first. Maybe had Ukraine been supported by Trump, and given arms during peace time, it might be different today. Maybe had Obama not been so soft on Russia taking Crimea it would have been different. But we are not there now.

    Biden has had a mess to clean up in Afghanistan where Trump negotiated a timeline assuming his re-election, and he has had to put NATO back together as well. And we can thank Putin for waking up NATO. Ukraine had a lot of corruption from what I read. And now that this is being cleaned up, maybe admission to NATO will occur sooner than later, but not until the war is over is probably the right idea.

    You said, ” Technically, Biden is right. The process is too cumbersome to think Ukraine could become a member in the immediate future. ” Biden was not just technically right, he was right period! Give him a little credit here! So why criticize Biden for not admitting Ukraine into NATO in his first year? Wasn’t it too cumbersome then too? And weren’t the same concerns that Trump had also present during Biden’s first year? And in January didn’t the best intelligence sources say that Putin would most likely not invade?

    We do not yet know if this will break into WWIII or not, but if it does not, then maybe you can write a blog giving Biden a little credit for once! Then maybe Frank won’t feel so dirty. And playing nice for once would not hurt your GOP image. 🙂

    • larry Horist

      Tom …. I just submitted my response to Frank. You will see that your are wrong in my perception of Trump re Ukraine. I think you claim that Trump left NATO in shambles is a gross exaggerations. He talked tough, but he did what others did not do — as much as the talked about it. Trump got NATO member pick up more of their financial obligations. His actions actually strengthened NATO with more money. He also sent arms to Ukraine –something Obama did not do. He approved the expansion of NATO. NATO had more money and more members when Trump left office than they did when he entered. An you have no idea what Trump would have done if reelected. You have a personal belief … period. I am at a loss to see where Trump took any ACTIONS to weaken or shutdown NATO. He barked a lot but never bit. Biden could have started the process of Ukraine’s admission, but did not. One does not bestow credit for mistakes. I blame both of them.

      NATO admission can be cumbersome — but you miss the point. That is why Biden should have started the process from day one. We may well have had Ukraine in NATO long before the invasion.

      Also … Biden was NOT committed to Trump’s tentative deadline in Afghanistan in any way. That agreement was not more compelling than any Executive Order. The decision to pull out … when and how … solely rested on Biden. He even overruled his own military advisors. I think it was a monumental blunder.

  3. Joseph S. Bruder

    Larry, you are correct – Ukraine belongs in NATO. About everything else, you’re flat wrong. Trump only made things worse in both NATO and Ukraine, and being in Putins pocket, there was no way he was ever going to support NATO or Ukraine. They wouldn’t “play ball” with his extortion scheme, so fuck ’em.

    Russians first invaded Ukraine at the end of Obama’s administration, but at the time there was a Russian puppet government in place, and corruption was rife. Trump did NOTHING about that, and in fact, promoted Putin on the world stage his entire Presidency. When Biden cam into office, Russians controlled about 20% of Ukrainian territory. There was a new leader, Zelensky, who was independent from Russia and cleaning up the corruption, but Biden had Trump’s messes with COVID, Afghanistan, and NATO to clean up. The Russians invaded Ukraine again in February ’22, just about a year after Biden took office.

    Once the Russian military invaded Ukraine, there was nothing Biden (who does NOT run NATO, by the way) could do about Ukrainian membership. Biden is threading the needle to keep the Russians from getting too nervous. There is absolutely no truth to the assertions that Putin invaded Ukraine because of NATO expansionism – if anything, Putin is responsible for waking up the NATO alliance to Russia’s threats. And Biden brought them together.

    Biden is publicly downplaying NATO involvement in order to not give the Russians yet another excuse for threatening nuclear war. The fact that Zelensky started the morning grumpy and sour about getting into NATO and came out of his meeting with Biden excited and pleased means that Biden assured him that he’s on the fast track as soon as Russian troops are out of Ukraine. And Biden’s annoyed quip at a reporter who asked when Ukraine was going to get into NATO (as the news conference, which was all about Ukraine getting into NATO, was breaking up), “about an hour and twenty minutes after the Russian military is out” – it may have sounded like a joke or a barb at the reporter, but probably is more realistic than any other timeline proposed.

    But the plain truth is, NATO can not let Ukraine become a member before Russian military leaves the country unless they want to enter a full scale war with Russia. Russia has shown that its military is a paper tiger, and NATO would have wiped it out long ago if it were not for the threat of nuclear weapons. That’s Russia’s ace in the hole. Mostly because of Biden’s restraint (which Larry and most of the Republican Party don’t seem to have), Russia has stopped their nuclear saber rattling. But the threat is still there, and Biden is prudent and correct to keep it in mind with his public statements.

    Ukraine has shown itself to be a formidable opponent to the Russians, with help and supplies from NATO. They are as capable of defending NATO territory as any country in the alliance, and their committment to stopping the Russian threat to Europe is obvious. There may be some lingering corruption left in the government, but most of that has been stamped out by Zelensky (and I would submit, that Trump for sure, about half of our Republican representation in Congress, and 3-5 members of the Supreme Court are more corrupt than anyone in Ukraine). Ukraine deserves membership in NATO as soon as possible, but there’s a war to win first. NATO is giving everything it can to get Ukraine past that point and into the membership. Calls for anything more are just noise.

  4. mike

    sorry your all wrong in 1991 NATO. RUSSIA and Ukraine signed a aggrememnt that NATO would NEVER put NATO on Russias door step
    Biden over stepped this aggrememnt
    THE USA and NATO can not be trusted under any aggrememnt
    Any aggrememnt is nothing more then TP
    I for one do not trust Ukraine and the USA goverment as it stands
    Putin is more trust worthery
    go look at how we got here
    in 2014 Obama coup of Ukraine
    again the USA and Crimia another aggrement
    that was violated

    • larry Horist

      Mike f … You first need to understand that “agreements” are not binding on subsequent administrations any more than are Executive Orders. That is what treaties are for. You also seem to have forgotten that we agreed to defend Ukraine in return for them surrendering their nuclear weapons. And you call the guy who invades a sovereign nation more trustworthy. LOL. I thought you were among those coitizing Trump for “trusting” Putin. Apparently, you and Trump are on the same wavelength. I personally believe you are both wrong for trusting Putin. The fact is that the Crimea and the Donbass Region are part of the sovereign state of Ukraine recognized by the world of nation’s and the UN. When the Soviet Union busted up …a lot of captive nations because free and independent. Ukraine was one of them. It is an illegal invasion carried out with war crimes. He is the new Hitler — including the antisemitism, homophobia and racism. So, go ahead and give your “trust” to Putin. Be his cheerleader.

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