One could only hope.
There’s a third solution, albeit one that would require big concessions by Ukraine and Russia.
The 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement, which specified the terms for admitting new members, states that they should first resolve “ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes” involving them. This provision, while not phrased as a precondition, could nevertheless be invoked to defer Ukraine’s entry into the alliance indefinitely — but without shutting the door forever.
In exchange, Russia would acknowledge Ukraine’s inherent right of self-defense, per the United Nations Charter, including the freedom to acquire arms and receive military training from countries of its choosing. Ukraine would reciprocate by pledging not to permit Western military bases in its territory — Russia has denounced the U.S.-financed expansion of the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Ochakiv and Mykolaiv to accommodate American warships — and to extend that ban to NATO members’ military aircraft and cruise or ballistic missiles. In return, Russia would agree to a demilitarized zone along its side of the Ukrainian border.
This formula doesn’t amount to a comprehensive settlement of the Russia-Ukraine dispute, but it could give each side something to tout as success while tamping down the immediate crisis.
Rajan Menon is a professor of international relations at City College of New York, director of the grand strategy program at Defense Priorities, and a senior research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.