NATO’s Ukraine Policy

Peter Somssich

I am connected to Long Beach through my wife who grew up there. That is why, despite living in New Hampshire, we return every February to warm up and enjoy all that Long Beach has to offer, including your watch-dog publication, the Beachcomber. I recently received a copy of your paper with a front-page article regarding the Ukraine war and want to respond to it.

Full Disclosure: I was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1950 during the reign of Joseph Stalin and my parents emigrated to the USA in 1956 after the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, I am not a blind anti-communist. In fact, for more than 30 years I worked as a case worker in the organization Amnesty International to obtain the release from prison of “Prisoners of Conscience” of all persuasions worldwide. 

To understand the current crisis in Ukraine it is important to remember some of the circumstances that existed after WWII.  After that war, the countries of Europe were divided among the victors of that war with most Eastern European countries assigned to the authority of the Soviet Union (e.g., Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany).

These countries, as well as those under the authority of the French, British and Americans, were promised that at a later time they would be able to democratically elect their own governments. This did happen in Western Europe, but not in the Eastern European countries controlled by the Soviet Union. When in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union withdrew from Eastern Europe and agreed to respect the sovereign borders of those countries, including their right to join NATO or any other alliance of their choosing.

It is too bad that Russia does not like to have NATO countries on its borders, but Eastern European countries did not like being governed by the Soviet Union either.

That NATO has seen such a dramatic increase in membership is no mystery to anyone who had lived in the East block countries. These countries want to ensure that Russia would never again control the fate of their country, so that their citizens have the final say. Neither the USA nor any other country has the right to dictate to another sovereign country, what is allowed or not. NATO was not actively marketing its services to other countries. Those countries like neutral Sweden and Finland, requested NATO membership because they feel genuinely threatened by Russia as the result of this current war.

Russia has been careful not to blatantly violate treaties with the US but is notorious for breaking many promises and treaties with other countries and leaders, when it is convenient for them (the occupation of the Crimea is one such example).

While Putin continues to claim that this war is about border security for Russia, wouldn’t using international diplomacy to provide some kind of international protection for both the Russian and Ukrainian borders be a much better long-term solution than a war?

Also, Russia has had NATO members on it borders for many years, without this resulting in any threats against Russia. The only logical reason for the war is Putin’s obvious ambition to reconstitute the old Russian and Soviet empires with him as the new Czar. No wonder that former East block countries and even Western European countries (e.g., Germany, which I just visited 3 weeks ago) are very concerned.

I personally did not believe that the Russian people wanted a war over Ukraine and certainly not one using nuclear weapons. In addition, the condition of the Russian economy is marginal, with their only real export product being gas and oil. Yes, Germany has become somewhat dependent on Russian fossil fuels, however, the Russian economy is also dependent on the German economy.

Regardless of German and Russian mutual interests, no country has the right to dictate a decision to Ukraine. NATO should continue to listen to and support with defensive weapons Ukrainian President Zelensky, who has consistently said that this war will be fought by Ukrainians, is not a threat to Russia and that he desperately needs weapons to help defend his country, including the airspace over Ukraine.

Peter Somssich is a NH State Representative


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