The Washington Times reports rather melodramatically about Lloyd Austin’s scheduled visits to Ukraine and Georgia this week:
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will stress this week that there is an “open door to NATO” for Ukraine and Georgia, the two nations on the front lines of Russian aggression, Pentagon officials said over the weekend.
Mr. Austin will visit those two countries and Romania in the coming days before traveling to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Pentagon officials cast the trip as a clear signal to Moscow that the U.S. and its NATO allies stand firmly behind Ukrainian and Georgian sovereignty in the face of Russian provocations and military expansion over the past decade.
Encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to believe that NATO membership is still in the cards for them is a serious mistake. It is not surprising that the Biden administration is maintaining the status quo on this issue, but it is a missed opportunity to reverse some of the damage that was done back in 2008 when this dangerous promise was first made to these aspirant states. Keeping the “door” open to NATO expansion antagonizes Russia, and it strings Ukraine and Georgia along for no good reason. Many European allies will not support bringing these states into the alliance, and there is no compelling reason to add them. Both countries would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defend in the event of a conflict, and they already have Russian or Russian-backed forces on their territory. Even if they were model democracies, which they most certainly are not, they would be poor candidates for the alliance.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.