July 19, 2024
When the dust settles after all the motorcades leave Washington, there will be the same uncertainty in Ukraine as before the summit: brutal fighting on the front line, daily Russian bomb and drone attacks against Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure (especially energy), a Putin who believes he can still win, a Ukraine that heroically fights on without an immediate pathway to victory, and a West that is helping, but not enough. Fundamental questions about the future of war and peace in Europe will remain unanswered.

NATO at 75: Whistling Past the Graveyard

As NATO leaders meet in Washington, the existential issues of US leadership and defeating Putin in Europe are not on the formal agenda

Europe is in the midst of the largest war on the continent since NATO was founded in 1949. Putin is attacking Ukraine with conventional forces and engaging in hybrid attacks against NATO itself.

The allies know that if Russia is not defeated in Ukraine, it is highly likely that Europe will soon face a larger war involving their countries. It is, therefore, beyond doubt that defeating Putin’s regime is a vital interest for Europe and the United States. And yet despite the billions of dollars of military and financial aid provided to Ukraine, the West still has no plan to achieve Ukrainian victory.

One might think, therefore, that at the July 9-11 gathering of NATO heads of state and government — a meeting marking 75 years of the world’s most successful military alliance — the number one issue would be the plan for victory and the restoration of peace in Europe.

One would be wrong. There will be no talk of doing whatever it takes to win the war, of defeating Putinism, and of inviting Ukraine to join NATO as quickly as possible. Instead, the summit has already been pre-planned to take only modest, incremental steps to support Ukraine, while deliberately avoiding the most fundamental questions.

This low bar was set and rigorously enforced by the United States and Germany, despite pleas for a more robust posture by several NATO allies. Washington and Berlin have made it clear that the key goal is not to provoke Putin and to avoid escalation. His defeat is still not the objective.

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Note: Kurt Douglas Volker (born December 27, 1964) is an American diplomat who served as George W. Bush‘s last U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Later he served as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and in a volunteer capacity as Donald J. Trump‘s U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine until his resignation on September 27, 2019.

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