Talks between Russia, the U.S. and Europe have hit an impasse over Russia’s demand that NATO agree not to admit any new members. So far, the Biden administration and European leaders have rejected such terms. In so doing, they risk giving Russian President Vladimir Putin an excuse to invade Ukraine. But caving to Putin’s blackmail would be even worse.
Putin has long accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of attempting to “encircle” Russia by expanding the alliance to the edge of its territory. Yet only five of 14 countries that neighbor Russia are NATO members, covering just 6% of the Russian border. NATO has added just two members in the last decade: Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020, neither of which threatens vital Russian interests. In 2008, the alliance made a nonbinding pledge that Ukraine and Georgia could eventually become members, but didn’t offer them what’s known as a Membership Action Plan, a necessary step for advancing the accession process.