U.S. pours cold water on Ukraine’s NATO application

robert romano

A rapid escalation of the war in Ukraine has followed Russia’s annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk and other cities across the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were bombed, and now Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested fast-track approval of Ukraine’s application to be in NATO.

Under Article 10 of the NATO Treaty, “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.”

In May, both Finland and Sweden moved to become latest members of the military alliance, which has already been approved by Canada, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, the UK, Albania, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, Belgium, Romania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, France, Italy, the U.S., Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Slovakia.

Only Hungary and Turkey remain to approve both countries into the alliance, with the U.S. meeting most recently with leaders in Istanbul to move the treaty expansion along, where the White House issued a statement on Oct. 2 that the parties had “discussed… progress on NATO accession for Finland and Sweden.”

As for Ukraine, the U.S. appeared to pour cold water on Kiev’s request to join the alliance with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan telling reporters on Sept. 30: “the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time.”

That is, “at a different time” when 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory is not compromised by Russia. Not even President Joe Biden wants to start World War III anytime soon.

If Ukraine were to join the alliance, it would appear to immediately trigger war with Russia under Article 5 of the treaty, which states, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… will assist the Party or Parties so attacked…”

If that were to happen, Congress would not even need to authorize the use of military force in order to get into a wider war. Instead, the consequential vote would be on adding Ukraine into NATO via a Senate vote. From there, the treaty would appear to be automatically be triggered and NATO would be at war with Russia.

And yet, the House of Representatives would have no role in the process, even though the war-declaring power is a core Article I, Section 8 prerogative that is intended to avert this very dilemma. That is, all votes to insert America into a war must be done by the people’s representatives in both chambers of Congress, be presented to the President in the form of a bill and signed into law, or else the military action is not authorized.

When asked about the issue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not exactly sound enthusiastic, stating on Sept. 30, “I would be for them having a security guarantee,” and falling short of endorsing Ukraine’s NATO bid.
As for an authorization to use force, there is such a bill, by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) that so far has garnered zero cosponsors. And perhaps that is because either the White House and/or Congressional leadership have told members not to do anything with the legislation because it would be viewed as an escalation across the pond. Maybe it’s better that way.

Because it is an escalation. The real question should be what are the consequences of not fully discussing in Congress a war that has already begun, and which Congress is funding with billions of dollars. For now, we still appear to have one foot out the door in terms of being fully committed and, importantly, the American people’s representatives — who will be up for election in just a month — have not fully spoken under Article I about what our proper role in the region should be. Maybe someone should ask them before the election.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.