By Mohammad Mazhari

Successive U.S. administrations have used Ukrainian membership in NATO as leverage: professor

March 12, 2022 - 11:29

TEHRAN - An associate professor at UMass Boston believes that the U.S. administration won’t reject the option of a Ukrainian membership in NATO as a leverage against Russia.

“I do, however, believe that successive U.S. administrations have kept the option of Ukrainian membership in NATO open as leverage to try to restrain Putin if need be,” Darren Kew tells the Tehran Times.

However, Kew, the executive director of the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development at McCormack Graduate School, is of the opinion that “both Democrats and Republicans understood that admitting Ukraine into NATO would be extremely provocative to Russia and that neither would likely have gone that far.”

After Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine, some pundits blame America for provoking Moscow by encouraging Kyiv to join NATO instead of keeping Ukraine far from Russia-NATO competition.
Following is the text of the interview with:

Q: What are the implications of the Ukraine war for the West's allies? 

A: So far, it appears that Russia’s invasion has helped to unite the West and its allies against Russia.  The economic impacts of rising oil prices may undermine some of that unity, but overall, I think that Putin’s actions will reinvigorate NATO in the short term, and perhaps the long term as well.

“I do not believe Putin’s nuclear threat is very serious at this point.”Q: Some political pundits say the U.S. could prevent this war by discouraging Ukraine in its bid to join NATO. But America victimized Ukraine to find a pretext in order to sanction Russia. What is your comment?

A: I do not think U.S. leaders were trying to provoke Russia or this crisis.  I do, however, believe that successive U.S. administrations have kept the option of Ukrainian membership in NATO open as leverage to try to restrain Putin if need be, although I believe that both Democrats and Republicans understood that admitting Ukraine into NATO would be extremely provocative to Russia and that neither would likely have gone that far.

Q:  The Persian Gulf Arab states preferred to take a middle ground and refused to condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine. What are the implications of such about-face for America? Apparently, Arab States no longer bet on America as a reliable ally.

A: U.S. ties to the Persian Gulf states are more directed toward containing Iran and continuing the flow of oil, and have less to do with global concerns.  Thus I do not expect that the (Persian) Gulf states' neutrality toward Russia will impact their cooperation with the U.S. as it concerns Iran or oil, and I do not expect the Biden administration to put much pressure on its (Persian) Gulf allies to do much regarding Russia at this point.

Q: How do you describe the division inside America over the Ukraine war? Trump's supporters and some Republicans have stood on Putin's side. 

A: Compared to most issues here, I would say that most Americans are actually fairly united in rejecting Russia’s invasion at the moment.  The U.S. House just passed a resolution condemning the invasion 426 to 3 — almost completely united. 
 Nonetheless, some far-right leaders and Trump supporters are still supporting Putin, and it is causing real difficulties for many right-wing pundits and Republican leaders, who are now trying to distance themselves from their past support for Putin.  I expect that Republican leaders will try to pivot the public conversation away from Ukraine and back to domestic issues as soon as possible.

Q: Don’t you expect an expansion of the Ukraine war? What about the threat of nuclear war?

A: I think that much depends upon how far Putin and the Russian leadership plan to go with this invasion.  If, as I expect, their goal is to annex the eastern Ukrainian territories and install a pro-Russian government in Kyiv, which will then approve the stationing of Russian troops in Ukraine, then I expect the war will halt once the Russians are able to defeat Ukrainian resistance and impose a new government.  Sanctions against Russia would likely continue for some years after that, without further escalation.  If, however, the Ukrainian army is able to halt the Russian advance at some point and retain control of part of Ukraine, other countries may seek to support it, which could widen the scope of the war at some point.  On the other hand, if Russia wins decisively on the battlefield and Putin goes so far as to annex all of Ukraine, NATO will likely have to move more troops into Poland and the Baltic states, which would create more possibilities for escalation on either side’s part.

I do not believe Putin’s nuclear threat is very serious at this point, and that the war would have to escalate significantly, perhaps including attacks on Russia itself, before that would be a direct concern.

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