Ukraine and Russia: NATO should clarify its deterrent approach, while it still can



The recent deployment of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers on the border of Ukraine, with a range of equipment needed for an invasion, fundamentally threatened the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. Although Russia would have sent back the troops at their barracks, equipment remains based on pre-positioned stocks, available at short notice if Moscow decides to invade at some future time.

Given this potential for a quick Russian invasion of the fait accompli, as well as the West’s interest in a stable and independent Ukraine, the United States and its NATO allies should make its response to Moscow clear to Moscow. a Russian invasion. Ambiguity, while sometimes useful to national security, is counterproductive in this situation. Instead, NATO can use the upcoming June summit to convey the kind of measures Western countries could take in the wake of any incursion into Ukraine, like cutting off Russia’s access to international funding, cutting the running to Russian energy supplies and turning on the tap on Western weapons. transfers to Ukraine.

Ukraine is not a NATO ally, despite the ill-conceived promise eventual membership in 2008. Nonetheless, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and political independence are important to the United States and its European allies for at least three reasons. First, the dismemberment of Ukraine or its political implosion as a result of Russian military action would completely undo the precariousness of regional stability acquired over the past two years, largely thanks to a we rejuvenate and ally commitment deterrence in Eastern Europe. Undoubtedly, a new Russian invasion would throw the region into instability and cause even more – not less – needs for the American, German, British and French military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

Second, a Russian invasion could result in waves of refugees fleeing Ukraine, creating social, economic and even political upheaval elsewhere in Europe. Given the terrain along Ukraine’s western and southern borders, these refugees would likely travel to Poland, a challenge made more difficult by Poland’s COVID-19. lockdown measures and its slowness vaccination. Ukrainian refugees would also likely flee to other preferred destinations beyond Poland, in particular Germany and Italy.

Third, another violation of international law and norms on Russia’s part would force the United States to devote more energy, attention and resources to European security matters, possibly at the expense of the Indo -Peaceful. Europe remains vital to US national security regardless of what Russia does, and of course the US national security enterprise can walk and chew gum at the same time. However, as Washington increasingly focuses on China, Russian adventurism in Eastern Europe creates an unwanted distraction.

What should the United States and its allies do? Clearly explaining to Moscow what is at risk is necessary to avoid miscalculations and remove ambiguity, as deterrence remains a viable political choice and before a Russian military operation is launched that leaves the West with less. options. In about seven weeks, NATO allies will meet for their first Biden Presidency summit, providing a perfect opportunity to clarify potential Western responses to any further Russian military action against Ukraine. Of course, there is no guarantee that Russia can be deterred now or in the future, but speaking with unity and clarity at the NATO summit could prevent the most catastrophic results.

The menu of potential Western responses should focus first on Russia’s center of gravity – the economy that fuels its military operations and modernization – and, second, on Russia’s ability to consolidate and sustain the gains from expanding its presence in Ukraine. Some might argue that economic matters are outside NATO’s purview, but Article 2 of its founding treaty calls on the allies to work more closely together in the economic realm, which is an increasingly important vector of Russian (and Chinese) influence and other hybrid activities in Europe.

As far as the Russian economy is concerned, two areas in particular are ripe targets. The first is the financial sector. The United States and its allies should make it clear that they would likely ban the trading of existing Russian debt by Western institutions in secondary markets and end Russian banks’ access to the financial messaging system used for most international money transfers. If implemented, these steps would have a cooling effect on the Russian economy by significantly increasing Moscow’s borrowing costs, weakening the ruble and reducing the liquidity of the Russian economy.

Second, the West should signal its willingness to turn off the taps on Russian fossil fuels. Such a decision would require sacrifices on the part of Washington and its European allies. On this side of the Atlantic, US officials should reduce America’s growing dependence on Russian crude oil, which climbed last year as oil imports from Venezuela plummeted. However, given the global nature of the oil market, it is not enough to simply ban the import of Russian crude. Instead, the West could announce its readiness to exploit strategic oil reserves and its intention to get other major oil producers to increase their production.

Meanwhile, Germany is expected to put the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project on hold, which Chancellor Angela Merkel said was disgusting to do. Moscow consistent and predictable demand for its energy exports, however, since oil and gas royalties account for about 40 percent of Russia’s government revenue. More generally, the reduction in Russian fossil fuel revenues would have a dramatic impact on the Russian economy, which remains dependent on resource extraction.

Finally, NATO must be clear that a new invasion of Ukraine could trigger Western arms transfers to Kiev, making any attempt at occupation painful for Russian troops. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $ 2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including one recently announced $ 125 million package for patrol boats, counter-artillery radars and other equipment. However, there remains $ 150 million in unspent funds for fiscal year 2021 under Ukraine’s Security Assistance Initiative, which Washington could signal it intends to release immediately following a Russian offensive. Meanwhile, the main American allies Germany and France could announce his intention to do more, by joining The United Kingdom in its willingness to provide weapons and offensive capabilities.

Sanctions against Russia announced in early April by the Biden administration were considered limited in scope and impact. It was probably intentional on the part of the administration to keep a few arrows in its quiver, but also in the hope of eventually achieving some kind of peaceful coexistence with Moscow. It’s time to show Moscow what’s in the quiver, but Washington can’t do it alone. Together, at the next summit in June, NATO allies should exercise their deterrent power while they still have it.

John R. Deni, Ph.D., is a research professor at the US Army War College’s Institute of Strategic Studies, senior non-resident researcher at the Atlantic Council, and Assistant Professor at American University’s International Service School. He is the author of “NATO and Article 5. The opinions expressed are his own.


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