Allied unity – and, more profoundly, determination – is key to convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin that the cost of invading Ukraine is too high to bear.
Ukraine should also be allowed to choose its own direction. As a free and independent state, the nation cannot be forced into Russia’s sphere of influence, which is the end goal that Putin’s bet to strengthen his troops seems to be pursuing.
So far, all is well for those who oppose the Kremlin coercion. Unlike the recent Allied dysfunction exposed when President Joe Biden consulted very little with NATO countries as the United States accelerated exits into Afghanistan, the United States and its European partners appear aligned with it. Ukraine.
Biden portrayed this unified approach relatively well when he warned Putin in a video conference last week of severe sanctions from the West if Russia, which already split Crimea in 2014 and aided and abetted the West. separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine in the following years, was to fully invade the region with the 100,000 or more troops he amassed along the border.
Unlike the relatively lukewarm response to the Crimean crisis, these sanctions, which may include the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany, could profoundly destabilize the Russian economy (and therefore lower Putin’s approval ratings. among the Russians, which seems to be an important subtext of the Putin-fabricated foreign crisis). NATO would also send more forces to Eastern Europe and more military materiel to Ukraine to help push back Russian troops, which could still overwhelm outdated Ukrainian forces.
What Biden did not and should not promise is to deploy US or NATO troops to fight the Russians directly; such a large-scale conflict between the first two nuclear powers could turn catastrophic. But the nuclear issue may only be heating up: On Monday, a Russian deputy foreign minister said his country could deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to his belief that NATO was planning the same thing, an accusation rejected by the alliance. (These deployments were banned by a 1987 treaty from which the United States withdrew in 2019.)
Biden, rightly, did not over-promise Putin’s demands, including legal guarantees that NATO would not expand eastward. This should be up to Ukraine (and Georgia, for that matter) and NATO to negotiate. A 2008 deal to do just that is still stalled, but according to opinion polls in Ukraine the desire to do so has never been higher. And no wonder, given the Russian aggression that goes far beyond and before Crimea.
While it is possible for Russia to attack, the likelihood is relatively low, told columnist John E. Herbst, the United States’ ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006. “I don’t think it will invade because the risk of invasion for him is high, in part because the US response to this threat has been swift and strong, ”said Herbst, now senior director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council.
Herbst, however, added that Putin had already secured a few concessions, including the Biden summit and a European security dialogue, as well as some minor amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that was the center of the debate on Capitol Hill. Hill last week.
It is in the interests of the United States, Herbst said, to adhere to principles widely accepted by the international community, including “the right of countries to choose their own domestic and foreign policies, their rights of sovereignty and to ‘territorial integrity’. Accessing the Kremlin’s quest for a veto (even though Ukraine and Georgia are far from being members of NATO) “is clearly not in the interest of the United States.”
On Sunday, the G-7 backed these principles with a strongly worded warning of “massive consequences” and “high costs” in the event of an invasion by Russia. It is useful, but Moscow will watch for Western hesitation. The same will be the case for Beijing regarding its warmongering towards Taiwan.
Now is the time for Democratic allies to prioritize diplomacy, but not betray countries that have the right to choose their own future.
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