The big story of the week is the standoff between the NATO allies and Ukraine at the Vilnius Summit. Famously, President Zelensky was photographed all alone and angry, after being refused a pathway to membership to the “greatest alliance in history”.
I cover the Summit in my podcast this week, and am sharing some of the best readings that I used to make sense of this event.
You can read the communique itself here. Paragraph 11 is the key source of Zelensky’s disappointment.
Allies will continue to support and review Ukraine’s progress on interoperability as well as additional democratic and security sector reforms that are required. NATO Foreign Ministers will regularly assess progress through the adapted Annual National Programme. The Alliance will support Ukraine in making these reforms on its path towards future membership. We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met. (my emphasis)
The Moon of Alabama interpreted events as a big climb down by NATO.
Mary Sarotte, who has written a history of the US perspective of the promise that NATO not move one inch eastward after 1989, claimed NATO was putting Ukraine in the worst of both worlds.
Thomas Fazi wrote an acute piece, and Adam Tooze explained the US-European impasse on Ukraine and the money problem on his substack:
“Expect the NATO summit to be awash with promises of weapons for Ukraine. The German government is already today trailing possible new packages. But when you read the numbers that emerge from the summit, place them against the structural impasse sketched above. They are part of a double calculation – by the key players in NATO and the EU – which is not designed to give Ukraine what it wants any time soon .
The Quincy Institute grumbled about America paying for its occupation of Europe… sorry that slipped out, I meant Americans want Europe to pay more for its own security through NATO, before expanding its members to include that money-sink of Ukraine.
Richard Haas confused the riverbank city of Vilnius with a mountain. It was another demonstration of the decline of an influential American Imperial Mind. Yet his aims echoed Biden’s results: increased European defence spending and its integration with American operations, focus on China, and avoiding responsibility for foreign policy fiascos by comparing this fiasco to an alternative reality of “irresponsible America under Trump”.
The EU Parliament paper focused on practical cooperation rather than membership promises.
Foreign Policy assembled nine so-called “thinkers” on the future of the alliance. In truth, they were retired politicians, generals and journalists. They all assumed that Ukraine was the iron spine that America would thrust into its European alliance.
MK Bhadrakumar accurately assessed, “the delusional hopes of NATO countries defeating Russia have withered away and the Vilnius summit’s decisions will reckon with this ground reality.”
Kim Dotcom plausibly concluded that Russia has won the war, NATO is in retreat, and the USA is going into a dark time.
Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, made a rare European plea for peace, based on the original aims of NATO as a defensive alliance.
John Helmer, the veteran Australian journalist who is the longest-serving foreign correspondent in Moscow, speculated, on the basis of solid sources, that NATO had given an ultimatum to Ukraine. “Win” by the end of the year, or there will be a scramble for Galichia.
Garret Martin at War on Rocks reflected the growing obsession of the American Imperial War Faction with war against China. He called on the Summit to cut Ukraine loose, and expand Nortern Atlantic Defence into a Global Alliance Offence to secure the US Empire in the Western Pacific.
It’s not just support for Ukraine that is at stake for NATO in November 2024, but the alliance itself, and a big piece of that is whether there will be trans-Atlantic unity on how to deal with the challenges emanating from the Indo-Pacific. Having conversations at NATO now about how the alliance would react in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan would help to ensure a more unified response if Beijing takes such action in the future.
The Global Times, reflecting Chinese elite consensus, responded by issuing an editorial demand: “NATO must promptly withdraw the black hand it has extended toward the Asia-Pacific region.” Dmitri Medvedev assessed the Summit darkly, “World War III is getting closer.”
Listen to the Burning Archive podcast this week for my own assessment, in music, prose and poetry.
This week it is Wislawa Szymborska, The End and the Beginning.
After every war
someone has to clean up.
straighten themselves up, after all.
I read the whole poem in my podcast this week. It connects to events in Ukraine, Vilnius and Washington.
Please support my writing at jeffrich.substack.com or by buying my books.
My latest writing on governing relased today, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Bureaucrat here, and
- my book of essays From the Burning Archive: Essays and Fragments 2015-2021.
- my collected poems, Gathering Flowers of the Mind.