Congress should end the war in Ukraine by withdrawing from NATO
Congress can end the war in Ukraine and win a Nobel Peace Prize by enacting a statute withdrawing the United States from NATO — transforming it from a mighty offensive oak into a tiny acorn unalarming to Russia.
As early as 1798, Congress nullified a defense treaty with France by statute. A congressional end to United States participation in NATO would be no constitutional novelty.
At the very latest, NATO became obsolete in 1991 when its raison d’etre — the Soviet Empire — dissolved. By remaining in NATO and spearheading its expansion to Russia’s borders with 30 members, the United States provoked President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine. It was poised to join NATO to fortify the encirclement of an already diminished Russia constituting a greater existential threat to it than the existential threat the Cuban missile crisis posed to the United States.
By withdrawing from NATO, Congress would end the existential threat that occasioned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and extinguish the executive branch’s ambition for regime change or weakening Russia. The United States is NATO’s locomotive and the other members collectively the caboose. Congressional withdrawal would permit Putin to save face if he ended Russia’s military and political debacle in Ukraine by asserting that his war aim had been achieved.
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The nuclear and conventional military forces the United States can summon to destroy Russia or defend NATO members are staggering. The annual national security expenditures of the United States approach $1.7 trillion. We are the most secure nation in the history of the world. Europe’s NATO members sent the United States an SOS to pacify convulsions in its own backyard when Yugoslavia began to fragment in 1991. Russian forces were deterred from assisting their Serbian friends, as post-Soviet Russia had become a member of the United Nations. United States forces remain in Kosovo, which has pleaded for a permanent United States military base. In sum, NATO without the United States is a paper tiger and no existential threat to Russia with or without Ukraine.
But Russia is a paper tiger as well. Its military forces have performed miserably in Ukraine. It has been forced to rely on Iran for weapons. Russia’s military spending is a fraction of the collective defense budgets of Europe’s NATO members. The European Union’s GDP is more than eight times Russia’s, and the EU’s per capita GDP is more than double Russia’s corresponding figure.
Further, Russia has witnessed an incalculable brain drain because of its Ukraine war. Its 145 million population is down by nearly half a million since the start of the year.
In sum, Russia is no military threat to Europe’s NATO members. Not even close. The United States departing NATO would not leave them in the lurch.
Withdrawal from NATO by congressional statute and consequent termination of Russia’s war in Ukraine would save the United States hundreds of billions of dollars. The United States is on track to spend over $100 billion to support Ukraine in less than one year. The war shows no sign of ending in the foreseeable future as long as the United States remains in NATO.
Diplomacy is a non-starter. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky insists on recapturing all territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea. Russia’s industrial-scale war crimes have steeled the Ukrainian people against any concessions. Putin’s propaganda and boasts would make any diplomatic settlement that would deny Russia territorial aggrandizement at Ukraine’s expense unthinkable.
In other words, the Ukraine war will drag on and on indefinitely draining the United States of $100 billion annually if diplomacy is the exit strategy in lieu of NATO withdrawal.
Congress would burnish its own image and be lauded as peacemakers worldwide if it set in motion the termination of the Ukraine war by a statute ending United States NATO membership. It would also begin a desperately needed challenge to an imperial presidency.
Bruce Fein was associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and is the author of “American Empire Before The Fall.”