‘That’s the Real World’: Fmr. US Ambassador to Russia Says US Was Lying to Ukraine About NATO Bid
Despite the fanfare surrounding US President Joe Biden’s endorsement of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the fate of the Nordic countries’ applications remains to be seen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to veto the bids, slamming the applicants as hosts of “terrorist centers” contrary to a security alliance.
As Finland and Sweden seek approval from NATO’s 30 member-states, questions and concerns have arisen about Ukraine being afforded a similar opportunity within the coming years in an effort to expand the alliance’s influence amid heightened regional tensions with Russia, which has been vocal about its security needs.
During the most recent iteration of the semi-annual Munk Debates, Harvard international affairs professor Stephen Walt highlighted that throughout 2021, the US was cheerleading for Ukraine to join NATO, despite Russia’s longstanding opposition to NATO expansion.
“In 2021 we kept reiterating that Ukraine was gonna join [NATO]. We kept saying that, over and over again,” Walt noted.
“Did you believe that?” asked Michael Anthony McFaul, who served as US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.
As the crowd erupted with laughter, Walt took things a step further and inquired whether this was common practice for diplomats like McFaul.
“So our diplomats are lying?” Walt asked.
“Yes. Yes! That’s the real world, guys! Come on,” McFaul said, waving his hands for emphasis. “That’s the real world.”
“Our diplomats are lying all the time, yet the Russians should trust them when they’re offered assurances,” Walt laid out, eliciting claps from the audience.
Speaking to reporters in Copenhagen, Denmark, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was “confident that we will come to a quick decision to welcome both Sweden and Finland to join the NATO family.”
“We are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed, because when an important ally [like] Turkey raises security concerns, raises issues, then of course the only way to deal with that is to sit down and find common ground,” the NATO secretary-general told reporters.
The Turkish president maintains that Stockholm and Helsinki’s applications will be blocked due to their harboring of independence- and autonomy-seeking Turkish Kurdish groups that Ankara classifies as terrorists–
such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party
(PKK) and those who follow Fethullah Gulen
“NATO is a security organization,” Erdogan pointed out. “We cannot accept the presence of terrorist organizations in it.”
Additionally, both Nordic nations have maintained their 2019 arms embargo on Ankara.
While the Kremlin remains opposed to the expansion of military infrastructure via NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Finland and Sweden’s decision to join the alliance was not a direct threat (although it could trigger a response all the same).