Talking Points

It's not Russian propaganda to oppose Ukraine joining NATO

Some people in Washington are very upset that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) doesn't think the United States should want Ukraine in NATO. This includes the White House, where Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the lawmaker's concerns — that NATO membership would make the 100,000 thousand Russian troops along the Ukrainian border a much bigger U.S. problem than it is right now —  as "Russian misinformation" and "Russian talking points."

In another climate, this might be considered McCarthyism. Now it's just par for the course, part of nonsensical U.S. policy on Ukraine, which keeps the Eastern European nation in a weird limbo that guarantees neither U.S. defense of Ukraine nor peace for the United States.

"U.S. leaders insist on risking Ukraine now for the principle that we might defend it later," writes Defense Priorities' Ben Friedman, deploying U.S. forces to nearby nations though Ukraine is not a NATO member, as much of the foreign policy establishment would prefer, and we are not obligated to defend its borders from a Russian incursion. "Ending this absurd policy will do far more for Ukraine than stationing 3,000 troops in other countries," Friedman adds, to say nothing of being safer for the United States: Russia today is weaker than the old Soviet Union, which makes it less strategically important and a different kind of threat than it was during the Cold War, but it is still nuclear-armed. 

As for Hawley, he's no stranger to controversy. But weighing whether it advances any American national interest to take on a commitment to go to war over Ukraine is no hot take or wild conspiracy theory. Pledging ourselves to Ukraine would do more rather than less to make our peace and security dependent on Russian President Vladimir Putin's whim.

There are some marginal Putin fetishists on the right, and every anti-war movement contains voices who go too far in whitewashing the bad behavior of targeted foreign governments. But there's also rampant threat inflation among the real decision-makers in Washington and an inability to learn from the mistakes of the last two decades of futile wars, leaning on analogies to older conflicts instead.

However you label them, on this issue, Psaki is wrong, and Hawley is right: Admitting Ukraine into NATO would either be dangerous or reduce the alliance to a paper tiger at the expense of the American taxpayer — and, perhaps, the expense of our soldiers, too.