'WE MUST ASK ... IF WE’D BE PREPARED TO START WORLD WAR THREE'

Financial Times – 30 December 2014

You quote a NATO spokesman as stating that

"our door is open and Ukraine will become a member of NATO if it so requests and fulfils the standards and adheres to the necessary principles"

('Ukraine moves closer to NATO bid', FT.com, December 23). This suggests that NATO has forgotten what made it the most successful alliance in history for half a century of confrontation with Soviet Russia: its credible deterrent posture based on the collective security of Article 5 of its treaty. There was never any doubt that an attack on any NATO member by the Soviet Union would have instantly involved it in a third world war with all the other members, including the US and the UK.

In order for any deterrent policy to be credible, the potential aggressor must be aware not only that the consequences of attacking will be unacceptable, but also that they will be unavoidable. For NATO this means that no country should be admitted to membership if there is little or no prospect of Article 5 being invoked on its behalf.

During the Cold War, though sympathetic, NATO rightly stood by without intervening while the USSR brutally crushed popular uprisings in central and eastern European states. These were subsequently offered membership – including the Article 5 guarantee – after the break-up of the Warsaw Pact. The credibility of that vital guarantee was stretched to its absolute limit with the admission of the Baltic States, albeit that the UK had a long history of supporting their independence.

Before casually encouraging countries such as Ukraine along the path to NATO membership, with all that entails, we must ask ourselves one key question:

"Would we be prepared to start a third world war if such proposed new members were invaded?"

If the answer is “No”, as I believe it is, then admitting them to membership would undermine, at a stroke, the credibility of Article 5. We would then be back to the uncertainties of the 1930s, when aggressors could pick off one weak country after another while gambling that their stronger friends would not intervene. This is the very scenario that NATO was set up to avoid and we should be mad to return to it.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA