What’s Next for NATO in Ukraine? The Nuclear Option?

After two weeks it’s clear Ukraine’s “spring counteroffensive,” promoted for months by the US media, has made no significant headway, while the Ukrainian armed forces have taken devastating physical losses.

Ukrainian officials claim to have retaken 38 square miles since the start of the offensive. These scraps of territory have been purchased with as many as 1,000 casualties per day, putting the total at up to 12,000 since the start of the offensive.

Russian officials have released video of armored vehicles being destroyed by missiles, drones and long-range artillery, including over one dozen advanced Leopard 2 tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

For the first year and a half of the conflict, the US and NATO powers have operated on the premise that they could prosecute the war by sending ever more advanced weapons to Ukraine, while letting Ukrainians serve as cannon fodder on the battlefield.

With cold indifference to the catastrophic loss of human life, the Biden administration has sought to fight the war to the last Ukrainian. But the problem with this strategy is that NATO is running out of Ukrainians to send to their deaths.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured so far. This is a substantial portion of the fighting-age population, leading the Zelensky government to more desperate measures to find new bodies to throw at the front lines.

Against this backdrop, the defence ministers of NATO countries concluded a two-day summit Friday aimed at finalizing plans for a military alliance between NATO and Ukraine. On Thursday, a Biden administration official told CNN that they are “open” to an accelerated plan for Ukraine to join NATO.

This will be the content of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, whether through Ukraine directly joining NATO or in the form of the provision of “security guarantees.”

The real issue, however, is not Ukraine entering NATO, but NATO “entering” Ukraine through a vast escalation of its involvement in the war. The only reason for accelerating Ukraine’s entry into NATO is to create the framework for such an escalation.

The entire credibility of NATO has been staked on an effort to hurl the Russians over the border, generating a crisis that would lead to the collapse of the Putin government. The logic of escalation leads inexorably to direct NATO intervention in the conflict.

Every time the US and NATO powers have claimed they would not do something in Ukraine, they have gone ahead and done it, from the provision of battle tanks and fighter jets, to weaponry that has been used to attack Russian soil.

What will be the next “red line” that NATO will cross in response to the deteriorating military situation in Ukraine? There are several possibilities:

First, the creation of a “no-fly zone” and the direct engagement of Russian forces by NATO aircraft.

Second, the direct deployment of NATO troops into the war zone.

And third, the deployment or even use of tactical nuclear weapons by NATO to prevent a Russian victory in the conflict.