^(Throwaway account because I don't want to expose my main account. I live in a small country so doxxing me would be relatively easy. I guess you'll just have to take my word that I am neither a Russian state troll, CIA plant, nor alt-right infiltrator.)
The country that I live in is a European state which borders Russia.
It's a member of the EU, but not a member of NATO.
Yes, it is a state - a bourgeois, parliamentary-democratic, capitalist state. Which, as we know, is not really free and not truly democracy.
This, it seems, means that it's as bad as any other state.
Since a state is non-free by definition, any harm to a state must be applauded as a positive thing - this seems to be the stance taken by some anti-statists. An equivalence is drawn between all states, whether they're parliamentary republics where people enjoy some rights, or authoritarian ones where they don't.
With this logic, my country, or Ukraine, are states just as the Russian Federation under Putin's autocratic rule is a state, and therefore an aggression from Russia towards them is seen as neutral. A Russian invasion must not be opposed, according to these people, because when states fight and lose, the people win.
The status quo over here
As far as states go, my country has a history of very strong labour unions. Which means that they've organized, fought for, and won many policies which benefit workers. Yes, those workers' rights are still only those which are permitted within capitalism. But relative to most other places in the world, capital has somewhat less power here.
The policies typically called "social democracy" (which were not granted down by "benevolent capitalists", but hard-fought by the people) are a success story within capitalism, and possibly the only example within capitalism of peoples' actual material conditions improving across an entire society.
Children are taken care of regardless of income, so infant mortality and child poverty is among the lowest in the world. Gender equality is near the highest that exists anywhere in the world. Press freedom and political freedom is very high, which is why people can publicly identify as anarchists in the media and "only" get harassed verbally instead of murdered or imprisoned. Gay couples have equal rights here, but on the other hand, we are still fighting to remove unjust requirements from legal gender recognition for trans people.
Oh, so you're a SuccDem?
I hasten to point out that I'm not listing these things to venerate social democracy as the ultimate ideal, or out of national pride. I don't identify through the country of my birth or nationality, I'm not "proud of my country" for these rights existing in it. I'm proud of the workers who fought for those rights and grateful that I could live and benefit from the fruits of their struggles. I feel that it's a lucky happenstance of history that such a political context even came about.
As for social democracy, I'm simply pointing out the good that has come out of it. I don't see it as the end goal for humanity, because I believe a better world is possible. I think I'm allowed to see the good but also the need to move beyond it. It's still capitalism, and any good that's come out of it will still eventually be corrupted and destroyed by capitalism itself. So I'm only saying that it can be worse than this (and it truly is worse in many places in the world, even in places like the US which have benefited relatively more from colonialist exploitation). I would rather have anarchy, or not-capitalism, instead of this capitalism.
But there are alternatives on offer that are far worse.
"Don't side with any state"
I see people using the word "neutrality" regarding Ukraine and Russia.
I have to presume that the same would be happening if it was my country in Ukraine's place. Therefore, a question to those people:
Do you really think it is "morally neutral" to take millions of people from the SuccDem reality I've described above into one where they live in an authoritarian, quasi-fascistic (if not outright fascist) state - one where organized labour has no power and LGBT people are criminalized? That is what Putin's autocratic rule of the Russian Federation is. It's an imperialist state. And it that has no moral qualms about invading one of its neighbours.
Do you really think that these things make no difference for real people's lives and safety? Is living in a bourgeois state at peace equally as bad as living in one that has a war going on within its borders?
Or, alternatively, when people take the strongly anti-war stance of "don't fight on the side of any state in any war", does that mean that the people over in Ukraine, or over here, should simply accept the invasion, allow it to roll through with no resistance, and be integrated into the Russian imperial state?
It seems this idea of taking no sides is coming from a theoretical or ethical perspective. But let's put theory aside for a moment and talk practice and tactics.
Thinking tactically, the idea that you must never cooperate with one state against another seems rather strange to me. Especially if one of the states is blatantly more authoritarian than the other one.
Should a German with anti-Nazi views living under the Third Reich not take up resistance against that fascist state when the US and Soviet began to push into its territory? Tactically, would that have served the goal of getting rid of the Nazis? I don't think so. But the moral calculus described above says that USA and USSR at that time were bad states too, so that must make it wrong to fight on the same side as them.
Should the Spanish left during the 1930s have not only rejected any alliance with the liberal factions, but also rejected any aid that (hypothetically) may have been supplied by the UK or France or the USSR? At the same time, Franco was getting assistance from Hitler and Mussolini. If your enemy gets a type of support that you don't, then you're at a disadvantage. But accepting assistance would have been aligning with statists, right?
Should the YPG in Rojava have rejected assistance from the US special forces in their fight against ISIS? I have no illusions that the US wouldn't sell out Rojava in the end if it benefited them. But do you think Rojava would have improved their survival by rejecting the US?
My view is that no, in practical terms, and in tactical terms, it would not have been productive in those instances to refuse to cooperate with anyone who's not an anarchist.
But warmongers on both sides?
I oppose wars of invasion. I oppose wars of invasion that the US has started, and I oppose the war of invasion that Russia has just started in Ukraine. I would also oppose any that my own government would want to start, if such a thing happened.
But this small country hasn't been involved in such things since World War 2. It's not going to start a war. If a war starts here, it's because our bigger and stronger neighbour decided to invade. And, as mentioned, the only reason that the Putinist regime has not done so is not because it has a moral opposition to it, but because it hasn't deemed invading us to be in its interests.
Speaking of interests - if such a Russian invasion did ever happen, it wouldn't be in the interests of regular Russian people, any more than of the people in the warzone. It would be Russian sons forced to sacrifice their lives, and Russian parents left to grieve for their losses (if they were ever even informed by the military). The only people benefiting would be those in power in the Russian government - the same people making the decision to start the war.
The government and politicians over here, however, would not benefit from a Russian invasion in any way. So there is no incentive for them to warmonger.
But armies are only used offensively?
I can understand why people who live in countries that do wage wars of invasion - such as the USA, UK, and France - are more absolutely against military. I understand why it's easy to be skeptical and laugh at the idea of a "defensive army" when you've lived in a country which hasn't had any credible military threat towards it in 70 years.
I can see why someone would call for abolishing a military that they've only ever seen used in military adventures against governments in small and far-away countries. And I understand that it is hard to understand that the military in this country is a genuinely defensive one. It hasn't been used in 70 years because it exists so that it wouldn't have to be used. I'm perfectly aware that sounds like a naive fantasy to most people around the world.
And I fully understand why the people who have felt the effects of the aforementioned countries' military adventurism would feel differently. People who have lived in or have family connections in North Africa, the Middle East, or South America have had a very difrerent experience. They've been the ones feeling the crimes of the US.
CIA-planned coups of democratic governments, US military adventurism, wars for "regime change", cluster bombs, Coca-Cola death squads. Those are all real things that have happened and still do. If that is the primary threat you face, and at the same time you face zero threat from Russia, then of course you're anti-US. Of course you want nothing to do with US influence, and maybe you'll even cheer when Russia throws some spanners in their plans.
But that doesn't mean that the Russian state is the good guy, or that Russia is anti-imperialist.
It's just two empires competing. So act locally: in action, tactically oppose whichever empire is the largest threat to the lives of people around you. But in words, criticize BOTH.
And don't just criticize those two. Criticize the EU for its anti-democratic aspects, while acknowledging that it has at times been a useful counterbalance to global corporate power. Criticize your government, parties, and police.
I criticize all those things because I believe that a better world is possible. But I also know that a much worse one is possible too. None of those things will improve by us being occupied by a quasi-fascist state. Those institutions will be replaced, and not by better ones. And we will no longer be able to voice our criticism.
What's that got to do with NATO?
So, the NATO question. Do I support or oppose NATO membership - in this country's specific case? Surely I must oppose it if I'm to call myself any kind of leftist, let alone an anarchist, because it's a tool of US hegemony.
As mentioned, the only reason this country is not a part of the Putinist empire is that the costs of taking it would outweigh the gains. The defense strategy based on increasing those costs is called deterrence. There are no nuclear weapons here. The only deterrent available is a conventional army that would make any invasion very costly.
It's not possible for a small country to have a military large enough to prevent one as big as Russia's from doing anything it wants, if it wants it badly enough to throw its weight behind it. But it is possible to wage a war of delaying and attrition that wears down a much larger attacking force - enough that it makes it very, very costly to the attacker in terms of lives, material resources, time, capital, political opinion, and so on. The point is for the attacker to not bother attacking in the first place because it sees it wouldn't be worth it.
That has been what the defence in this country has been based on, and that's another reason why saying "it's a defensive army" is really no joke - all military spending is done in service of this strategy of denial by deterrence.
So that's why I'm not currently advocating for my country's military to be abolished. If we didn't have it, then we'd have the Russian military instead.
Up until now, Ukraine seems to have had the same strategy. They gave away their nuclear weapons, but they did keep enough tanks and stuff to hopefully stop anyone from wanting to invade. They of course don't have enough stuff that it could prevent Russia from conquering them - but it should've been sufficient to do such damage to Russia that it wouldn't want to try.
Now, however, it seems that it wasn't enough. Ukraine is being invaded by Russia from all sides.
The deterrent failed. A conventional military was not enough for Ukraine - a much larger country than us, by the way.
Every single person over here is now making the calculus: How large is the damage that we could inflict on an attacker if we were in the same situation?
How large are the incentives and potential gains for Putin to do that to us? Is this piece of land really a lot less worthwhile to him than Ukraine?
On the other hand, how big of a deterrent factor is the fact that we're an EU member?
...The answer is, we don't know. The strength of a European Union response in such a situation has never been tested in practice.
But we've seen that the US and Russia steer very clear of each other even when they're deployed in the same region, preferring to use proxies instead. We've seen that even when Turkey and Russia slip up and blow up each others' fighter jets, they both work very quickly to set the incident aside with no escalations.
I think that my country, were it in the NATO, would almost certainly not be the target of any invasion in the future. Not unless a complete global war breaks out - and in that case, we would be targeted even if we weren't in NATO.
As non-NATO member in the EU, though? I'm much less certain. It honestly seems like a coinflip - probably we won't get invaded while Russia's tied up in Ukraine, but after that, anything is possible. If the bear's still hungry, it could go for another bite somewhere else. And after Putin dies and someone else takes over, things could change for the better. Or worse.
So, no, I will not reject NATO membership off-hand. If that is what it takes to have a working deterrent, and to stop another country in the world from falling under authoritarianism, then in my opinion that's good. Then we just need to weigh the downsides that would come with it.
Are there downsides?
1) Would joining NATO mean a loss of freedoms for this country's people?
2) Would it cause more people around the world to suffer from US hegemony - which would mean that we'd be buying our safety with the blood of people in the Global South?
Maybe you can help me answer that, particularly (2). I'd love to learn more perspectives on that issue.
As I said, I'm against wars of invasion. If we were to join NATO, I would want assurances that we would only ever get involved in actual defensive wars. Not bullshit like when Bush invoked Article V after 9/11. Things like the NATO (ISAF) adventure into Afghanistan should be strongly opposed.
And the US invasion of Iraq was a crime, and in that case you could argue that many NATO members would have been pressured to join "the coalition of the willing", even though it wasn't a NATO operation. However, many members did not join the coalition, including Norway and Poland.
On (1), I don't believe there would be a significant loss of freedoms comparable to the present, certainly not comparable to what it would be under Russian occupation. The US has corrupted fledgling democracies around the world, but our democracy is not a fledgling one. They would not be able to use any additional influence to corrupt a state that has strong parliamentary institutions and strongly organized labour. And we don't have natural resources that the US would want, so they have no incentive to turn us into a puppet. Russia, meanwhile, does.
Therefore, I have to conclude that I'm cautiously favourable towards NATO membership - not universally, but specifically for this state and under these specific circumstances.
But that's just how it looks from where I'm standing, in Russia's little neighbour.
You may now go ahead and freely call me fake, poser, and imperfect anarchist.
I would rather be an imperfect anarchist than dead in the ground in the wake of a conquest that leaves muslims more persecuted than today, LGBT people without the few rights they have today, anarchists and journalists imprisoned, fossil fuels increased over the few piddly climate actions we're taking today.