Adam Ladha addressing a room of students during the MNATO at Carleton University.

Dispatch from the Carleton Model NATO: Adam Ladha’s blog from the field

Photo credit: Adam Ladha

By Adam Ladha, MAGG

Earlier this year in February, I had the opportunity to participate in Carleton’s Model NATO simulation. The simulation was three days of discussion and debate, highlighting the geopolitical dynamics of NATO. I personally was assigned the role of special representative to Ukraine for the NATO Ukraine council, responsible for representing the views of Ukraine and its people to NATO. Our committee was particularly focused on debating the need for more military aid from NATO members. This debate revealed a fascinating dynamic between NATO financing and unilateral funding. 

A consistent topic of discussion was the inability of NATO to provide direct military aid to Ukraine, even though all members of NATO have provided direct, unilateral aid to Ukraine. This point was extremely contentious within debate, exacerbated by the fact that at the time of our proceedings, the Ukranian city of Avdiivka was in the process of falling to the Russian armed forces. Considerable shortages of equipment, ammunition and manpower forced Ukraine to withdraw from the city, representing the largest victory for Russian armed forces in Ukraine since the capture of Bakhmut last year. Since that time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have continued to urge Western Allies to provide further aid to be able to conduct offensive operations, rather than the primarily defensive posture they have maintained. An aid package was proposed by the United States to meet these operational needs; however, it remained stuck in congressional gridlock. As the congressional aid package continued to languish in the weeks following the conference, my hope dwindled considerably. By the start of April, Ukranian forces were forced to, in the words of President Zelenskyy, “go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps.”  

However, on April 24th, 2024, the gridlock in US congress holding the aid package hostage was finally broken, with over $61 billion in military aid finally being approved for delivery to Ukraine. This package will provide Ukraine with much needed long-range munitions, artillery shells and anti-tank weaponry to continue their fight against Russia.  

This development is extremely important for Ukraine to maintain their capability in the short-term, providing them with the equipment they lack. Despite this, it does nothing to bolster Ukranian domestic production or procurement, continuing to leave them at the whim of Western aid.  

This dynamic reveals Ukraine’s continual dependency on external support, which poses significant challenges for Ukraine’s long-term military sovereignty and self-reliance. The implications of such dependency extend beyond mere tactical disadvantages to strategic vulnerabilities, as Ukraine finds itself perpetually waiting for the next tranche of aid to maintain its defense capabilities. This reliance not only influences military strategies but also affects diplomatic leverage, potentially limiting Ukraine’s autonomy in international negotiations. 

Reflecting on my experience in the Model NATO simulation, I realized the profound complexity of international alliances and the intricate balance of support and sovereignty. The simulation was not merely a hypothetical exercise but a mirror reflecting real-world dilemmas faced by countries dependent on foreign aid for security. It underscored the critical importance of creating sustainable, indigenous defense capabilities that would enable countries like Ukraine to stand independently and not just survive, but thrive in the face of aggression. 

To move towards a more sustainable future, it is essential for NATO and its member countries to reassess their strategy towards Ukraine. Beyond immediate military aid, there should be a concerted effort to develop Ukraine’s local military industries. Investment in infrastructure, technology transfers, and training programs are crucial to this end. Such initiatives would not only bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities but also contribute to its economy, enhancing its resilience both militarily and financially. 

In conclusion, while the role I played in the Model NATO simulation was that of a representative arguing for immediate aid, the insights I gained pointed to a more nuanced solution. The true strength of an alliance like NATO lies not just in its ability to provide for the urgent needs of its members but also in its capacity to empower them towards self-reliance and sustainable growth. As we advance, it becomes imperative to evolve from a paradigm of dependency to one of empowerment, ensuring that nations like Ukraine are equipped not just to fight today’s battles but to secure a stable, autonomous future. This shift will not only strengthen Ukraine but will also reinforce the integrity and efficacy of NATO as a transformative force in global politics. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BSIA, its students, faculty, staff, or Board of Directors.

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