In the current tense environment, open speculation about possible Ukrainian membership in NATO is akin to playing with fire. German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed the former Norwegian prime minister as NATO chief because he is considered to be a far more level-headed politician than predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen. But since he took the helm, differences between the two have been difficult to identify. Hawkish statements made by NATO’s top military commander, Philip Breedlove, haven’t done much to ease the situation either.

Why is it even necessary for NATO officers to comment so frequently about Ukraine? Since the outbreak of the crisis, the alliance has expressed the opinion that the conflict cannot be resolved through military means. If that’s true, then wouldn’t it be better if Stoltenberg, Breedlove and company kept quiet?

Doing anything else is advantageous to Putin while at the same time sowing division in Europe. It makes it easy for the Russian president to blather about the supposed expansionist policies of the West. When it comes to the EU, of course, Putin is contradicting himself. He once said: “If the EU accepts Ukraine as a member, Russia, I think, would welcome this.” Last year, he suddenly and surprisingly changed course.