Why Turkey unblocked NATO enlargement at the last minute, what it means, and how Erdogan was persuaded

“Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main formal claim to Sweden and Finland was their loyalty to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized in Turkey as a terrorist organization, as well as to the “Gulenists” – Ankara has been raiding for many years those it considers followers of the preacher Fethullah Gulen and accuses them of organizing a coup attempt in 2016. About 100,000 Kurdish refugees have found refuge in Sweden.”

“Clarifying the wording of the compromise memorandum between the three countries, UK newspaper the Guardian noted that Finland and Sweden have promised not to “support” the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) and the Kurdish People’s Self-Defense Forces (YPG). And according to the Turkish pro-government daily newspaper the Daily Sabah, the memorandum also states that “Finland and Sweden commit to preventing activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions, as well as activities by individuals in affiliated and inspired groups or networks linked to these terrorist organizations.””

The War in Ukraine Is Putin’s Fault, but 30 Years of Misguided U.S. Foreign Policy Didn’t Help

“it’s important to call out the bad U.S. foreign policy moves that helped get us here. And even though no one did this but Putin, the U.S.’s failed approach to Russia for the last 30 years—a bipartisan effort that includes mistakes by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden—deserves criticism as well.”

“Clinton could have completely revamped NATO now that its purpose—defending member nations against the expansion of the Soviet Union—was no longer applicable. Instead, Clinton, with the Republican Party’s support, oversaw an expansion of NATO. Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland all joined. Years later, Putin would cite this enlargement of NATO as one of the West’s “broken promises” that justified his Ukraine policy.”

“With the Clinton administration’s backing, NATO also intervened in Yugoslavia in 1999 to ensure an independent Kosovo. That military action never had the backing of the United Nations; it was a violation of international law, just like Putin’s attack on Ukraine.”

“At a 2008 NATO summit—one attended by Putin—Bush staunchly supported Ukraine’s eventual admittance to NATO, over the objections of France, the U.K., and Germany.
The Obama administration, of course, inflamed tensions with Russia when the U.S. took sides in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. And then came Donald Trump. Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media ceaselessly accused Trump of being a Russian stooge, even a pro-Putin plant, installed by Russia as president of the U.S. due to a subtle influence campaign on Facebook. This was of course ridiculous—and as evidence of how ridiculous the claims are, Trump’s actual administration was just as foolishly tough on Russia as his predecessors. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence even reiterated the 2008 Bucharest declaration.

The Biden administration maintained that same fiction. A clear declaration that the Ukraine would not be joining NATO might have deprived Putin of the intellectual ammo he required to move forward with this invasion. We don’t know for sure. But it was incumbent on the U.S. to try. NATO is a means to an end—a more safe and secure Europe—not an end unto itself. If expansion is creating the very conditions that NATO’s existence is supposed to prevent, it’s not working. Yet every single U.S. president since the end of the Cold War has misunderstood this. And now here we are.”

Why the West’s China Challenge Just Got a Lot Harder

“It may seem that NATO is newly relevant as a deterrent to Russia — its original purpose — but its response cannot be simply be to return to its Cold War posture. The world has moved on even if Russia has not. Despite the war in Ukraine, China is still America’s — and thus NATO’s — most pressing problem.

The reasons are fairly clear. China has four times the population of the United States, its economy will soon exceed that of the United States and its military is larger than the US military and growing more technologically capable by the day. It is more integrated into the global economy than the Soviet Union or Russia ever has been, placing itself at the heart of many critical supply chains that the United States and its allies depend upon. It has defined itself in cultural and ideological opposition to the United States and to the idea of democracy, using its new wealth to spread the techniques of authoritarian control to every continent on Earth.

These trends continue as before, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made managing them even more difficult. Yet another disastrous result of this war will be the hardening of the Russia-China partnership that it augurs. A sanctioned Russia will rely ever more heavily on Chinese support, including on Chinese purchases of Russian energy and access to Chinese payment systems. As damaging as Western sanctions will be to Russia, isolating Russia is not really possible if China continues to provide this outlet.

But weakening the Russia-China partnership is at best a very long-term prospect. That means that, to effectively counter Russia, NATO will now need to accept that Russia and China have become part of the same problem. It will need use its newfound unity to “globalize” the alliance to include Asian democracies, coordinating policy and even force dispositions across both regions. It will also require a difficult conversation within the U.S. government and with allies about how to prioritize efforts between what may become the Pacific and European theaters of a global cold war. Those challenges will tax the resources of the US, NATO and America’s Pacific allies more than the Soviet Union ever did.”

NATO’s not ready for World War III

“To set up a no-fly zone, the United States would have to move hundreds of planes from bases around the world. It would take weeks to set up and couldn’t be done under cloak of darkness. The Russians would know NATO was coming, and if you knew NATO was coming, wouldn’t you take countermeasures? Wouldn’t you see an act of war on the horizon?

Even if NATO got around Russia’s plans, enforcing the NFZ would mean shooting down Russian planes. It would also mean taking out Russian anti-aircraft defenses so NATO warplanes could fly safely, according to experts who spoke with The Week. Those, of course, are on the ground, many of them inside Russian and Belarusian borders. Taking them out would involve NATO in a ground war, and the West is even less ready for that.

There are 74,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Spain, with the largest number (36,000) in Germany. Not all these people are front-line fighters. Many are involved in logistics, maintenance, and other tasks. There is a broader, 40,000-strong NATO response force, too, and some thousands of these troops are in the front-line Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. All told, fewer than 100,000 NATO forces in Europe are even close to being ready to fight.

The Russian force brought together for the Ukraine invasion is double that, about 190,000, and total Russian forces number 900,000.

Could NATO bring a larger force to bear? You bet. But it would take months, according to Shlapak.

For NATO to truly be ready to face down Russia, at least 100,000 more troops would have to be transported to Europe from the United States, Mark Cancian, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Week. Weapons, equipment, and logistics would all have to be scaled up accordingly.

Once preparations were made on the U.S. side of the Atlantic, ships would have to make the 3,000-mile trip to bases in Europe like Bremerhaven, Germany, and from there they would have to be deployed wherever they were needed most.

All of this would take between two and three months, Cancian and Shlapak agreed. All of it would be visible by satellite and in every other way imaginable. Getting ready for war is loud.

When the coalition of the willing went into Iraq in 2003, it took months to build up forces on Iraq’s borders. It was obvious — everyone knew the war was coming — but the foe was so inferior, all they could do was dig in and hope the U.S. would lose interest in fighting.

That is not the case with Russia. As NATO planes approach Ukrainian borders with hostile intent, Russia’s forces can meet them, and what are the chances Russia wouldn’t strike first? If you were Russian President Vladimir Putin, would you wait for warplanes to attack you before you attacked them?

Similarly, ships crossing the Atlantic have been sunk before, and all parties have spent 80 years since World War II improving their technique. Russia and NATO regularly patrol each other’s shores, ready for war — waiting for provocation. It’s fair to say hundreds of ships steaming toward Europe for a fight might be considered a provocation.”

John Mearsheimer and the dark origins of realism

“It should be acknowledged that his approach offers real insight. Indeed, though it is not stated out loud, Mearsheimer’s diagnosis of the Ukraine crisis is shared de facto by a large part of the US foreign policy establishment. The promise of Nato membership bounced through by the Bush administration in 2008, was an act of hubris. The West will not abandon Ukraine, but nor will it intervene militarily. Part of the rage against Mearsheimer is deflected frustration on the part of liberals who recognise in his frankness with regards to the actual limits of Western commitment – and there are good reasons for those limits. A direct confrontation with Russia is something that Nato has always tried to avoid. The US made it clear to Putin that there would be no military participation. Emergency weapons deliveries go a long way towards blurring that line. A no-fly zone would be lethally dangerous.

But for all that, to claim this as an intellectual victory for Mearsheimer’s realism would be perverse. He is no doubt right about the underlying causes of tension. But that is not the same as actually explaining war, any more than gesturing to imperialism is an adequate explanation for why the Kaiser gave the Austrians a blank cheque in July 1914. The realist model is grossly underspecified and fails to grasp the qualitative shift implied by the opening of hostilities. The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz may have said that war is the extension of policy by other means. But that still raises the question of why anyone, great power or not, would resort to such a radical and dangerous means.

In Moscow itself, none of the serious foreign policy establishment – all devotees to Russia’s future as a great power – believed that Putin would go to war. They were incredulous not because they do not understand the logic of power, but precisely because they do. They saw no good reason for Russia to risk employing the means of all-out war, with all its hazards, uncertainties and costs. Events are proving them right.

Morality and legality are one reason for opposing war. The other is simply that over the last century at least, it has a poor track record for delivering results. Other than wars of national liberation, one is hard pressed to name a single war of aggression since 1914 that has yielded clearly positive results for the first mover. A realism that fails to recognise that fact and the consequences that have been drawn from it by most policymakers does not deserve the name.”

“If we want to understand what happened in the Kremlin to precipitate the criminal folly of the invasion, what we need are not platitudes about the security dilemmas of great powers, but a forensic account of an epic failure of decision-making and intelligence.”

“adopting a realistic approach towards the world does not consist in always reaching for a well-worn toolkit of timeless verities, nor does it consist in affecting a hard-boiled attitude so as to inoculate oneself forever against liberal enthusiasm. Realism, taken seriously, entails a never-ending cognitive and emotional challenge. It involves a minute-by-minute struggle to understand a complex and constantly evolving world, in which we are ourselves immersed, a world that we can, to a degree, influence and change, but which constantly challenges our categories and the definitions of our interests. And in that struggle for realism – the never-ending task of sensibly defining interests and pursuing them as best we can – to resort to war, by any side, should be acknowledged for what it is. It should not be normalised as the logical and obvious reaction to given circumstances, but recognised as a radical and perilous act, fraught with moral consequences. Any thinker or politician too callous or shallow to face that stark reality, should be judged accordingly.”