Washington has been deliberately lying about Ukraine’s prospects to ever join NATO, knowing that the former Soviet republic isn’t a legitimate contender to qualify for membership in the Western military bloc, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has acknowledged.
The veteran diplomat made the revelation in a public policy forum, the semi-annual Munk Debates, earlier this month in Toronto.
Partnered with Polish MEP Radoslaw Sikorski, McFaul sparred on May 12 against Harvard international affairs professor Stephen Walt and political John Mearsheimer over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The two scholars argued that the conflict was avoidable and stemmed from actions by the US and NATO, while McFaul and Sikorski took the view that only Russia and the ambitions of President Vladimir Putin were to blame.
Walt questioned why Washington has been consistently pushing for Ukraine’s NATO membership, despite the security concerns raised by Moscow. “In 2021 we kept reiterating that Ukraine was going to join [NATO],” he said. “We kept saying that, over and over again.”
McFaul interrupted the professor, suggesting that Washington has never actually been serious about such prospects. “And did you believe that?” the ex-ambassador asked.
“So, our diplomats are lying?” Walt shot back.
“Yes! Yes, that’s the real world, guys, c’mon,” McFaul replied, drawing laughter from the audience.
“Our diplomats are lying all the time, yet the Russians should trust them when they’re offered assurances,” Walt noted, spurring applause from the audience.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.