NATO Summit – at 75 years this is no time to miss its great opportunity with Ukraine

Bob McConnell, Olena Liashenko
July 9, 2024

Monday, July 8, has been a very significant day for Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.

It started with the barbaric Russian attack on civilian targets in Ukraine, including in Kyiv, a maternity hospital and the country's largest children's hospital, as well as other civilian targets – no military targets.

Timing? Is Putin sending a message? He certainly knows NATO is gathering in Washington.

For most of us, the news flashes across the screen or is reported on the radio before moving on to the next story.  We may feel a moment of outrage, but it passes.

That has not been the case here at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation today.

Olena Liashenko, our creative director’s morning, began with a call from her mother, who lives in Kryvyi Rih. Their hometown was struck, and ten human beings died, and so far, 35 are known to have been injured. The sounds of sirens continued in the background.

Another Foundation worker, Oksana Sukhina, heard from her daughter, a medical student. She was near the children’s hospital at the time of that blast. She was not hurt physically but impacted nonetheless. Oksana’s nephew, also studying medicine, was riding his bicycle to make a delivery near the epicenter.  He was blown off his bike but did not sustain any serious injuries.

Putin’s genocidal war is more than statistics and distant Western news stories – it is about people, families, lives taken, lives destroyed, and lives turned upside down.

As officials from the NATO Alliance gather, Putin has slapped them in the face with the reality of Russian aggression.

Below, you will find two excellent articles regarding this week’s NATO Summit in Washington, the first written by Ambassador Kurt Volker and the second co-authored by former Assistant Secretary of State David J. Kramer and former U.S. Ambassadors to Ukraine John Herbst and William Taylor, all of whom are members of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).

One must hope that even at this late date our American Administration and several hesitant European members of the Alliance will read and heed the counsel provided here.

I highly recommend both articles.

In addition afore mentioned Olena Liashenko attended a briefing at Ukraine House today, featuring Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament.  You will find her report immediately following the two published articles.

NATO has historic opportunities in front of it this week. Will they be seized or will Putin deter genuine action once again?


NATO at 75: Whistling Past the Graveyard

NATO at 75: Whistling Past the Graveyard
By Kurt Volker | July 8, 2024

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.

As a result, 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.

Compounding uncertainty about the war is uncertainty about the future of US leadership. Each of the 31 NATO heads of state and government arriving in Washington this week wants to know the following about its 32nd and leading member: Is President Joe Biden fit to run for re-election as President, and will he? Can he even perform as president right now and for the rest of his term while war rages in Europe? Will the Democratic Party replace him? If so, when, and with whom? Even if he or another Democrat is elected, will the United States only grow weaker? And given such weakness on the Democratic side, can anything now stand in the way of former President Trump returning to the White House? And finally, if Donald Trump wins, what will this mean for Ukraine and for NATO?

As awkward as these questions are for the Biden administration, they are existential for European allies. How they are answered will determine the fate of war and peace on the continent. The United States is the alliance’s most powerful member. It is indispensable. There is now deep uncertainty over the future of American leadership, its future interest in Ukrainian victory and even in the alliance itself.

In a public corporation facing a leadership crisis, the board would convene an emergency discussion about its future. One might think, therefore, that at a gathering of NATO leaders, they would do the same.

Sadly, that will not be the case. Alliance leaders will talk quietly about the big issues on the margins, and hold their tongues in public.

NATO urgently needs a strategic discussion about the future of peace and security in Europe, and what can be expected of America in maintaining that peace.

It is urgent because, despite the veneer of unity, allies have very different perspectives, depending on their geography and politics.  Strong US leadership is needed to forge a consensus.

Most West European leaders have a deep disdain for former President Trump and are alarmed at his possible return to power. They worry he would undermine NATO’s Article 5 collective defense commitment, cut off aid to Ukraine, embolden Putin, and launch a global tariff war.

Frontline states such as Poland, the Baltic states, and Ukraine (which, while not an ally, is defending the frontier of freedom in Europe) share these concerns to some degree but are even more concerned about weak American leadership.

They see an America that gives Ukraine enough to survive but fears a Russian defeat; an America that counsels Ukraine not to attack inside Russia, even as Russia inflicts brutal attacks on Ukraine every day.

Just as they worry that a President Trump might reduce America’s support for NATO and Ukraine, they fret that a second-term Biden administration would still lack the resolve to defeat Putin, allowing Putin to regroup and expand his imperial and genocidal conquests in Europe.

The remedy to all these fears would be for the NATO summit to send a clear and unambiguous message to Vladimir Putin that despite the uncertainties in American leadership, NATO has the strength, resolve, and resources organized behind a clear plan to ensure Ukrainian victory, Russian defeat, and the restoration of peace in Europe.

Ideally, NATO would make clear it will give Ukraine everything required to expel the Russian invader, with no restrictions on the types of weapons provided or their use, other than conforming to international law.

Allies should establish a massive fund for expanding defense industrial production and procuring supplies for Ukraine, based on established NATO cost-share formulae. Allies should provide direct assistance in extending air defenses over western and southwestern Ukraine. Allies should assist with demining and guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the Black Sea. And NATO should begin the process of admitting Ukraine as a member, just as the European Union has done by opening accession talks with Ukraine.

As it is, there will be no such messages from the NATO summit. Allies will leave town as they came, deeply concerned about Russia’s war in Ukraine, deeply concerned about the future of American leadership, and with no plan as to what to do next. They won’t even have discussed it, leaving a gaping hole for our enemies to exploit.

Ambassador Kurt Volker is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA.) A leading expert in US foreign and national security policy, he served as US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations from 2017-2019, and as US Ambassador to NATO from 2008-2009. 

Foreign Policy

Ukraine’s Opportunity at the NATO Summit

To secure victory, the alliance must now capitalize on progress made by the G-7.

By David J. Kramer, John Herbst, and William Taylor | JULY 8, 2024, 8:11 AM

Foreign Policy included here a photo of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arriving for a joint press conference in Kyiv on April 29. As it is a Getty Image I replaced it with this cartoon.

Ukraine should be front and center this week when the Biden administration hosts the NATO summit in Washington. This is no time, into the third year of this terrible war, for obfuscation—either out of fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin might escalate into use of nuclear weapons (highly unlikely) or of the unknown if Russia were to suffer defeat in Ukraine (beyond our control).

The more weapons, technology, and assistance provided to Ukraine and the faster it is done, the more successful Ukraine’s outlook will be in defeating Russia. Success for Ukraine is difficult but by no means impossible. Failure is not an option.

Putin declared in mid-June that any negotiations would have to be based on Ukraine’s surrender of huge swaths of territory beyond those parts occupied by Russia, neutrality, substantial demilitarization, and a change in government. In other words: submission. So much for Western accommodationists who have advocated for negotiations to end the war.

Victory, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky and the vast majority of Ukrainians, means no Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory, including Crimea; Russian accountability for the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide that Russian forces have committed against Ukraine; and Russian payment for the destruction it has caused, estimated to be roughly half a trillion dollars and rising. The United States should embrace this definition of victory wholeheartedly. After all, it is Ukrainians who are the ones doing the fighting against Russia, not U.S. troops. This means ramping up assistance to provide the Ukrainians with the weapons they need not simply to fend off Russian attacks but to achieve victory. That is the quickest and best way to end this war and the toll it has taken on Ukraine.

FIRST, THE ADMINISTRATION needs to clarify that its goal is to help Ukraine win and defeat Russia. Previous administration slogans—from “as long as it takes” to “as long as we can” to help Ukraine have the “strongest hand possible” for eventual negotiations—are inadequate. Administration officials have offered muddled answers when asked for a clear answer on what the policy is.

Second, to achieve this outcome, the United States and its allies need to accelerate the delivery of weapons, new technology, and assistance to Kyiv. There are signs, albeit belated, that things are moving in this direction: The administration announced last month that it would prioritize delivery of air defense systems to Ukraine over other countries that have ordered them. It has also lifted the geographical restrictions on the use of U.S.-provided weapons against targets inside Russia—limits that had provided the Russians with a sanctuary to launch strikes against Ukraine.

But here, too, the administration should do more. It should allow Ukraine to use longer-range ATACMS missiles against targets in Russia out of self-defense—otherwise, it allows Russia sanctuary inside Russian territory to launch attacks against Ukraine without fear of retaliation. The administration should also do a better job of tightening the sanctions it has already imposed against Russian entities, especially in the financial and energy fields, tightening the screws on Russian revenue streams as much as possible. It should implement more aggressive secondary sanctions, including against entities in China, which has been providing support—albeit not overt military aid—to Moscow that has been critical to Russia’s economy and war effort.

It also should capitalize on the progress made at the recent G-7 summit, where the administration marshaled support for using the interest earned on Russia’s $300 billion in assets frozen by the West to securitize a $50 billion loan for Ukraine, to move to seize all $300 billion of those assets, not just the proceeds. Doing so is legal under U.S. law (i.e., the REPO for Ukrainians Act, signed into law in April) and international law and is guided by precedent, as in the case with Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait. It also is the morally right thing to do. How could the West ever contemplate allowing Russia to regain control over these assets and not use the funds to compensate Ukraine for the destruction Moscow has caused? Why should Western citizens pony up funds to pay for the damage Russia has caused when many of the costs can be covered by these Russian funds?

Third, it is possible that the upcoming NATO summit may be the last one on this administration’s watch. Thus, it must seize the moment and recognize that progress on Ukraine’s membership in NATO may get derailed if there is a change in the White House.

Recent excuses for delaying Ukraine’s entry into the alliance have focused on corruption in Ukraine. That’s a problem, to be sure, but one that is being addressed in a serious, if not complete, way as dozens of Ukrainian officials have been fired and investigated for allegations of corruption. Corruption didn’t seem to present a major obstacle for some existing members of the alliance.

More recently, the White House insisted that Ukraine must win the war first before it can be considered for membership. This excuse risks incentivizing Putin to extend the war as long as possible to make sure Ukraine never receives an invitation to join NATO. Extending NATO’s Article 5 security guarantees initially to the parts of Ukraine controlled by Ukrainian forces, and then over time expanding that sweep as Ukraine regains more land, is the best way to avoid risking a wider war.

Think about what Ukraine already has accomplished. It has inflicted more than half a million casualties on the Russian side. It has regained more than 50 percent of the territory Russia initially seized in the days and weeks after Feb. 24, 2022. It has taken out one-third of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and made the Crimean port of Sevastopol unusable for Russia. It has restored use of the Black Sea routes for Ukrainian exports and developed a strong indigenous drone capability that is causing real damage to Russian assets inside Russia.

Much of this Ukraine did on its own, and much was achieved with Western assistance. Ukraine has suffered terribly, and much of that toll came during the holdup in U.S. military aid before Congress finally voted for the new assistance package in April. Even during the seven-month period when no U.S. aid was flowing, Russian forces made very little headway, and what they did gain in places such as Avdiivka came at huge costs.

Russia has had to resort to using prisoners and immigrants to man the front lines, given Putin’s reluctance to enact a second mobilization. (Ukraine recently has also turned to recruiting prisoners, but that is because its population is roughly a quarter of Russia’s.) Russian authorities have had to increase bonuses for joining the military several times. And without Iranian and North Korean support, Russia would really be on the ropes now.

All this means that, with the right and prompt assistance, Ukrainian victory is in fact possible. The Biden administration should embrace that prospect. It also should support an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, a process that would take several years and not happen overnight.

No country has had the unfortunate and costly experience of fighting the Russians like Ukraine. No country deserves membership in NATO more than Ukraine. And an invitation would let Putin know that he cannot exercise a de facto veto over Ukraine’s aspirations.

THE STEPS OUTLINED here are critical for U.S. security. Putin identifies the United States as Russia’s principal adversary, and his aim is to undermine America’s standing and interests in Europe and elsewhere. Putin is responsible for the worst security crisis on the European continent since the end of World War II. If allowed to change borders by force and get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity, he will not stop at Ukraine. He will threaten countries that already are members of NATO, with the Article 5 security guarantees that come with that.

It is in Ukraine that Putin must be stopped and defeated. Moreover, giving Ukraine the means to deliver Putin a clear defeat would also deter Chinese President Xi Jinping from moving on Taiwan and send a signal to all authoritarian leaders that the United States will not back down.

Nobody wants this war to end sooner than Ukrainians. The way to reach that point is to help Ukraine win as quickly as possible and welcome the country into NATO so that this war is never repeated.

David J. Kramer is executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. He served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in the George W. Bush administration.

John Herbst is the senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

William Taylor is a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Ambassadorial Briefing on "War, Democracy, and Parliament: Ukraine 2024" Held in Washington DC

Washington DC hosted a significant Ambassadorial Briefing at the Ukraine House today, featuring Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament. Stefanchuk is in the U.S. capital to participate in the upcoming NATO summit and used this opportunity to share his plans with representatives from the press and the public.

In his address, Stefanchuk began by highlighting the severe Russian attack that took place this morning in Ukraine. At approximately 10 AM Ukrainian time, Russian forces targeted several civilian facilities in Kyiv, including a maternity hospital and the country's largest children's hospital, which treats children with cancer and performs complex surgeries. Additionally, in the city of Kryvyi Rih, a rocket struck the administrative building of a plant. The attack resulted in the deaths of 31 civilians and injuries to more than 125 people. As the briefing commenced, the Ukrainian delegation received phone alerts indicating another air raid warning and a ballistic threat.

Stefanchuk expressed profound gratitude to Ukraine's supporters for their financial, military, and political assistance. He also emphasized his intention to continue dialogue regarding further support for Ukraine in its ongoing struggle.

One of the pivotal issues slated for discussion at the NATO Summit is the removal of restrictions on the use of weapons provided by partners, specifically for targeting military objectives on Russian territory. The agenda also includes strengthening security guarantees for Ukraine and upholding its right to effective protection as guaranteed by the UN Charter. Additionally, there will be discussions on the training of F-16 pilots, the supply of F-16 fighter jets, air defense systems, and further financial support for Ukraine. Speaker Stefanchuk emphasized that the responsibility for the costs of this war should be placed squarely on Russia and Vladimir Putin, with the issue of reparations also on the agenda for the Ukrainian delegation's visit.

Sanctions against Russia and countries aiding in circumventing these sanctions represent another critical topic. Stefanchuk asserted that stringent sanctions are essential for Ukraine's victory. Drawing a parallel between Russia and the COVID-19 virus, he argued that isolation is the only effective strategy against Russia.

“We don’t want to wait for sanctions to become like waiting for the release of a new iPhone model - 14, 15, etc - same but slightly updated. Sanctions must be really tough and work,” Stefanchuk stated emphatically.

Addressing potential peace negotiations, Stefanchuk reminded the audience of Ukraine’s bitter history of agreements with Russia, citing the 1932-33 Holodomor, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and the 2022 full-scale invasion and atrocities in Bucha and Irpen.

"We do not want peace at any cost. Peace in exchange for territories is annexation; peace in exchange for people is slavery. Peace in exchange for sovereignty is dependence," he declared, quoting Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

From the NATO Summit, the Ukrainian delegation anticipates clear criteria for Ukraine's accession to NATO, aiming for substantial progress towards receiving an invitation to join the alliance as soon as possible. Stefanchuk expressed confidence in Ukraine’s ability to meet all requirements swiftly.

He argued that Ukraine's NATO membership benefits both the alliance and Russia. "De facto, the Ukrainian army is already a NATO army. It uses NATO weapons and defends the values the alliance shares. It performs the functions of a NATO army by protecting the eastern border of the alliance from Russia." For Russia, Ukraine's NATO membership guarantees that, as a member of the alliance, Ukraine will not seek revenge against Russia.

The briefing concluded with a strong message of resilience and a call for continued international support for Ukraine's fight for sovereignty and democratic values.

Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introductory comments are Mr. McConnell’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).