Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 04.09.2018
Ukraine and Georgia provide the most effective forward defence of NATO. Neither one of these countries is a member of the North Atlantic alliance. Existing NATO members desperately need the participation of Ukraine and Georgia in collective security framework, given that Russia is at war with the West. Failure to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance is a strategic blunder which allows Russian aggression to be rewarded and not punished. Failure to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO forces millions of Europeans to suffer unnecessarily for Putin’s malevolence and for the folly of appeasing Western leaders.
Two NATO exercises are taking place this month in Ukraine and in Georgia. “Agile Spirit 2018” is the name for the exercises in Georgia. “Rapid Trident 2018” is what NATO exercises in Ukraine are called.
Over 2,000 soldiers are taking part in Rapid Trident 2018 in Yavoriv in the Lviv region of western Ukraine. This NATO exercise in Ukraine focuses on defensive operations and is designed to improve interoperability with allied and partner nations. NATO members Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom have sent troops. Among the US soldiers are Army National Guard units from the states of Tennessee and California. Non-NATO partners Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are participating. Rapid Trident 2018 started on September 3.
All four non-NATO participants in Rapid Trident 2018 have lost territory due to Russian aggression. Azerbaijan has not controlled its territory of Nagorno-Karabakh since a war with Armenia which was most active from 1988 to 1994; Russia actively supports Armenia. Georgia has not controlled its territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region since Russia invaded Georgia in the early 1990s and invaded Georgia again in 2008. Moldova has not controlled its territory of Trans-Dneister since Russia invaded Moldova in the early 1990s. Ukraine has not controlled its territory of Crimea and part of its territory of Donbas since Russia invaded in 2014.
Agile Spirit 2018 in Georgia will be smaller in scale than the Ukrainian exercise. 237 servicemen and women from the United States, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Greece, Turkey, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, and Ukraine will take part. Note that Georgia and Ukraine are not NATO members but are integral to this NATO exercise.
The purpose of Agile Spirit 2018 is to prepare military brigades to respond to crises and to cooperate with the NATO Rapid Reaction Task Force in joint operations. Agile Spirit 2018 will get started at the Senaki military base in Georgia on September 11.
Ukraine and Georgia demonstrate time and time again that they are tightly integrated with European and broader North Atlantic collective security. Even while Ukraine and Georgia are waging wars of national defence against Russian invasion these democracies are reaching out to help members of an alliance from which they have been unjustly excluded.
Russia is at war with the West. The hotspot of Putin’s War is eastern Ukraine, where an army from Muscovy has been invading and occupying and bombarding and attacking for over four years. Less violent but no less destructive campaigns of Putin’s War against the West are against Moldova, against Georgia, against NATO airspace, against cyberspace, against competitive elections, against democratic institutions, against an independent judiciary, against a free press, against the rule of law, against respect for international human rights – against every pillar of Western civilization.
It’s time for NATO to “put a ring on it” and make good on the promise of membership it made in 2008. Ukraine and Georgia are the best members that NATO doesn’t have. Ukraine and Georgia are the front line of NATO’s defence against Russia. Without them, Muscovy would be well on its way to dismantling the European Union and NATO: those are Putin’s war aims. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting and dying and holding up the invaders from Muscovy at the Siverskyi Donets River and at the Kalmus River. Without them, Putin’s army would be at the Vistula River and the Prut River – and then Poland and Romania would be the front line states.
For the sake of European peace and security, admit Ukraine and Georgia to NATO membership now.