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Lucas: Ukraine’s fight against Russia forcing questions on NATO

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Ask not what NATO can do for you; ask what you can do for NATO.

That, in a play on JFK’s famous 1960 presidential inaugural speech, is what President Joe Biden asked of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Lithuanian NATO summit.

You keep fighting the Russians for us, Biden implied, and if you win you can join NATO. If you lose, well, that is a different story. You won’t be around to join.

Biden, nevertheless, came out in strong support of Zelenskyy and Ukraine, as long as Zelenskyy keeps on fighting and draining the Russian military dry. He promised that the US and NATO “will not waver” in its support of Ukraine.

Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd at Vilnius University following the summit, Biden said,” We are steeled for the struggle ahead. Our unity will not falter, I promise you.”

This is the same Biden who, upon the Russian invasion of Ukraine 18 months ago, offered Zelenskyy a plane ride to escape out of Kiev to safety in Poland.

“The fight is here,” Zelenskyy said at the time. “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

He still does, which is why he has repeatedly—and unsuccessfully– asked Biden for US F-16 fighter jets that Zelenskyy believes can turn the tide of the war.

These are the same fighter jets that Biden apparently agreed to provide Turkey’s wily president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in exchange for Erdogan dropping his opposition to Sweden joining NATO.

The point is that when it looked like Putin would roll over Ukraine in a week, Biden wanted Zelenskyy to cut and run. Now that Zelenskyy and the tough Ukrainian army has turned the tide, Biden is now his champion.

Biden does deserve credit for getting both Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Both countries are technologically advanced middle-sized military powerhouses.

The two countries will add strength to the military alliance that now is made up of thirty-two members.

The reality is, though, that Finland and Sweden only joined after Putin invaded neighboring Ukraine. They joined out of fear that they could be next on Putin’s expansionist hit list.

Finland shares a long border with Russia, and Russia has invaded Finland before, back in November 1939 in what was called the Winter War.  And Sweden is just next door to Finland.

Under article five of the NATO charter an attack on one  NATO country is an attack on all, and all have the right to take combined military action against any attacker.

NATO was initially formed after World War II to deal with Soviet Union communist dictator Joseph Stalin and Russia’s plans to expand control of eastern Europe and beyond.

Led by the United States in 1949, it was made up of twelve members. Now it has expanded to thirty-two. And while it grew, Russia, still a nuclear power, fell apart.

Putin wants to grow it again, which is why he first invaded Georgia and then Ukraine.

If Ukraine were a member of NATO,  the U.S., along with other NATO members, would be obliged to go to war with Russia and would be fighting against the Russians in Ukraine.

So, it is understandable why Biden and NATO leaders balked at fast-tracking Ukraine into NATO, although it will welcome it after the war is over.

Cynically, this means that the Ukrainians will do the fighting and dying to defend western democracy while NATO looks on.

It also means that NATO will sit back, and watch Russia’s military grow weaker by the day, its economy crash and its people grow rebellious over a criminal, stupid and unwinnable war.

What Putin did to Ukraine is what Hitler and the Nazis did to Russia when Germany invaded in June 20-21, 1939.

Hitler almost got to Moscow before the Russians rose to patriotically defend Mother Russia and turn the tide, slowly forcing the Nazis back to Berlin.

Putin is the Hitler of today, only in reverse. He invaded Ukraine and is slowly being forced back into Russia the way the Russians chased Hitler back to Germany.

What goes around comes around.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a media conference at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, last week. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a media conference at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, last week. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

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