BERLIN. This was during the reign of Anders Fogh Rasmussen NATO Secretary General, between 2009 and 2014, which Russia foreshadowed a brutal invasion of Ukraine this year with its initial dismemberment of the country in early 2014. Now, in his opinion, the West must supply weapons to Ukraine in order to ensure Kyiv’s victory in the war. Otherwise, he warns, autocrats around the world will cheer up and democracies will weaken.
I spoke with Rasmussen via Zoom ahead of his hosted forum, the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, as NATO faces its biggest challenge in decades. The former center-right Danish prime minister, framed in his photographs with various leaders and wearing a Danish and Ukrainian flag pin, began by explaining the goals of the summit. This year, she was approached by a former US president, Barack ObamaPresident of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
“The goal of the summit is to strengthen ties between the democracies of the world, because we need to intensify our efforts to counter the oncoming autocracies,” Rasmussen said. “Together, the world’s democracies represent 60 percent of the global economy.”
In Rasmussen’s view, democracies are strong enough to withstand increasingly emboldened autocracies. China eyeing a greater role in the world order and possible reunification with the self-governing island of Taiwan, a revanchist Russia at war with its neighbors. And for the West, there is no more urgent task than containing the expansionist ambitions of Russia. According to Rasmussen, the West should go further in supplying weapons to Ukraine. “They’ll need a lot more [weapons]… As war changes its nature, we must also change the types of weapons we supply to Ukrainians… Ukraine must win this war.”
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“NATO should support the decision taken back in 2008 when we decided that Ukraine and Georgia would become NATO members if they so wished,” Rasmussen told me, referring to the two former Soviet countries bordering Russia that Moscow invaded since 2008. The latest signals from the Ukrainian government indicate that it may be ready to accept the status of a neutral country; Rasmussen added that such a move would mean Kyiv abandoning hopes of NATO membership. “However, if this happens, Ukraine will need other security guarantees, and not those that they could receive through NATO membership.”
Specifically, how would the security guarantees offered by several states, many of which would presumably be NATO members, differ from NATO membership? “Now it’s hard to say… Whether alternative types of security guarantees can provide the same ironclad guarantee against a Russian attack as NATO membership remains to be seen,” the former secretary general said, stressing that, in his opinion, if Ukraine were member of a military alliance, Russia would never have invaded.
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Rasmussen said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had instructed him to determine what form those guarantees should take. It’s hard to imagine anything that can be as straightforward as Article 5 of NATO, which obliges all members of the alliance, including the three nuclear powers, to treat an attack on one member as an attack on all.
Accordingly, Rasmussen is not clear on what specific form non-NATO security guarantees to Ukraine might take. He suggested that an international peacekeeping force could be deployed, at least temporarily, in Ukraine to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement with Russia and deter future attacks. “Some of these elements can be negotiated in exchange for [Ukraine’s] acceptance of the status of a neutral country”. He did not specify which countries could send troops into territory where Russia is at war, with the potential for direct conflict with Moscow’s forces.
At least one expansion of NATO due to the war is inevitable, says the former Danish prime minister. “I am sure that in the end Finland and Sweden will join NATO,” despite Turkish opposition. He added that an official invitation would likely be made at the NATO summit in Madrid later this month.
Rasmussen sometimes speaks in the language of boundless post-Cold War liberal optimism about the supposedly unstoppable human desire for freedom. “Freedom is the most powerful force in the world… You can try to suppress these forces of freedom, but in the long run, freedom will win.”
On other occasions, however, he warns against Whig history, a narrative of transition from an ignorant age to enlightened reform. “Looking back, perhaps our biggest mistake after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was that we were convinced that a liberal society was so superior to us that we didn’t even have to fight for it, because it is self-evident that people will persecute just such a government.”
AT recent reportRasmussen proposed creating an economic version of NATO’s Article 5 on Mutual Defense to be used to deter countries deemed responsible for economic coercion.
Strengthening the unity of the democratic camp could be carried out through deeper economic and political ties between free countries. “We must promote a free, democratic internal market. We must make it easier to negotiate free trade agreements between democracies.”
Rasmussen founded the Copenhagen Democracy Summit after the election Donald Trump, the most anti-democratic US president in recent history. Will the global democratic camp be able to confront the enemies of democracy, not only internationally, but also within their own political systems?
Rasmussen is optimistic, pointing to the resilience of US institutions. “There have been some illiberal movements in the US, but the strength of American democratic institutions and checks and balances is so solid and so firmly rooted in the American spirit that this democratic system can even outlive Trump or a Trumpist. “.
I’m not sure. Examples of backsliding on democracy within the alliance that Rasmussen led are numerous, from Turkey to Hungary. Why the strongest democracy in the world must necessarily be an exception is beyond me. Without it, the global alliance of democracies he stands for would be severely weakened.