Ukrainian president to Baltic NATO allies: this is war in Europe
On May 3 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met in Warsaw with his counterparts from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, NATO’s member states on the Baltic Sea. The five heads of state signed a joint declaration on cooperation, including on what was termed common security.
The statement includes the phrase “Mindful of the historical experiences,” which is certainly a reference to domination by Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union in the past. It’s that common history that has united the political leaders of the Baltic states and Poland in the post-Cold War period, many of them American and Canadian nationals or married to such. (E.g., the former President Valdas Adamkus in Lithuania, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Estonia, President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga in Latvia, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister Radosław Sikorski’s wife Anne Applebaum in Poland as well as President Viktor Yushchenko’s’s wife Kateryna in Ukraine, etc., etc.)
The legacy of Russian and Soviet conquest and domination has been used to corral the four nations into NATO, though the 21st century is not the 18th, nor is the year 2021 the year 1945. Neither is contemporary Russia that of Catherine the Great, much less the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin.
Poland joined NATO in the first round of post-Cold War enlargement in 1999; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined five years later in the second. In the interim the U.S. and NATO have acquired and established air bases, anti-ballistic missile installations, a cyber warfare center, a Joint Force Training Centre for the NATO Response Force, NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups (in all four nations), U.S. Atlantic Resolve deployments (to all four nations), etc.
The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is surrounded on land by Poland and Lithuania. Russia’s last remaining ally in Europe, Belarus, is bordered by Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Estonia and Latvia border the main body of Russia.
Zelensky was speaking with the four nations whose support he would most need in any armed conflict with Russia, the involvement of one or more of which would automatically trigger a NATO Article 5 collective military response.
His comments to them included: “I want to thank you for your attention to Ukraine. International partners constantly support Ukraine, our territorial integrity and our sovereignty. I am grateful to you all. Today it is very important. When part of Ukraine is annexed – our Crimean peninsula and when we have a war in the east. This is the war in Europe. It is very important that we are together.”
Zelensky praised Poland’s President Andrzej Duda for his support for Ukraine’s NATO membership, though acknowledging that there “have [been] some historical issues with Poland.” Historical issues with Russia necessitate NATO membership; historical issues with Poland don’t militate against joining the bloc.
Ahead of Secretary Antony Blinken’s visit to Ukraine later this week, efforts are being made to consolidate support for the American and NATO client regime in Kiev in preparation for any future confrontation with Russia. Though according to the Ukrainian head of state, there already is war in Europe. Ominous words.