If you’ve been anywhere near Washington in recent months and spent any time talking about Ukraine to any of its foreign policy wonks, you will have heard the term “Israel model” bandied about. The idea began circulating before NATO’s Vilnius summit last month in response to the conundrum in which the organization’s member countries now find themselves: As a bloodied Ukraine desperately knocks on their door, the alliance was torn on whether or not to open it, and when.
Should NATO let Ukraine in now, while it is at war with nuclear-armed Russia, thereby immediately getting dragged into the war itself? Or should NATO condition Ukraine’s entry upon first ending the war, thereby giving Vladimir Putin every incentive to keep the war going for as long as possible?
In the end, it became clear that NATO membership for Ukraine, while a goal for the future, is not in the offing while the war still rages—and the invitation will not be extended for a while. “We’ll agree to invite you when we agree to invite you,” said one person familiar with the discussions behind the NATO decision last month. On the other hand, as retired Ambassador Dan Fried said, “The Russo-Ukrainian war shows that gray zones are green lights for Putin. You can’t have Ukraine just hanging out in a position of strategic ambiguity. Even Kissinger recognizes it.”