The Day – Consider a ‘conflict-free’ move to western Ukraine

NATO should be prepared to make a stronger statement that Vladimir Putin cannot prevail in his attempt to extend Russian domination over Ukraine. In the process, it can better support relief efforts in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the invasion.

The international unity in opposition to Putin’s war has been impressive, including broad and harsh economic sanctions and the supply of weapons to Ukrainian forces which were instrumental in their success in blunting Russian attacks.

Putin miscalculated in anticipating that Ukrainian resistance would quickly crumble and that Russia might install a puppet government after capturing kyiv. Instead, the Russian forces suffered heavy losses in equipment and large-scale casualties before abandoning, at least for the time being, the effort to take the capital.

But like any tyrant, Putin cannot admit being wrong. He needs more incentive to find a way out.

This week, Russian forces have launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine with the aim of taking control of the industrial region of Donbass and the Mykolaiv region to the south, with the ultimate prize being the port of Odessa. on the Black Sea.

How should NATO react? Continuing to provide Ukrainians with advanced weapons and training in their use, as currently planned, should certainly be part of the strategy. And staying united in respecting the sanctions is essential.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that more help is needed and has repeatedly called for a more aggressive response – with NATO imposing a no-fly zone over his country, blunting Russia’s advantage of dominance of the Air Force. NATO leaders were right not to. A necessary step in enforcing a no-fly zone would be to attack Russian anti-aircraft positions, quickly bringing NATO and Russian forces into direct conflict, with the possibility of that conflict escalating. rapidly.

But NATO can do more than impose a no-fly zone. This could create a safe and conflict-free zone in western Ukraine. Several foreign policy strategists have advocated such an approach, most notably Ian Brzezinski, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. The son of former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, he previously served as US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for NATO and European Policy.

NATO, at the invitation of President Zelenskyy, could move forces across the Polish border in what it would declare to be a purely defensive and humanitarian move. NATO forces would only react if Russia attacked this region, hundreds of kilometers from the Russian military offensive to the east. Given the poor performance of his army and his need to concentrate his forces in the east, Putin would be unwise to attack.

This safe zone would facilitate international relief efforts to help refugees who continue to flee the conflict, allowing some to resettle safely within Ukraine’s borders and enabling better coordination to help those seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

This would send a signal to Putin that he should not pretend to take over all of Ukraine, not without displacing NATO from the safe zone. Moreover, it would give Western nations greater leverage in the diplomatic talks that will be needed to end this conflict and find a face-saving exit for Putin that would allow him to claim some success for his evil gamble. generates.

On Monday, Russian airstrikes hit the Ukrainian city of Lviv in this western territory. Located far from the new battle lines, this attack, which included the destruction of a car tire factory, had little or no military value. Instead, like so many other Russian attacks, it was an effort to terrorize civilians, including those who had fled to the western region for safety. By creating a security zone, NATO would say that is unacceptable.

Yes, we recognize that such an approach would entail a risk of escalating the conflict. But Western nations cannot allow this fear to allow Putin to dictate all the terms of how this conflict unfolds. Declaring and enforcing a non-conflict zone is an idea that deserves serious discussion.

Day’s editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and meets weekly to formulate editorial views. It is made up of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editor-in-Chief Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Editor Erica Moser, and the retired Associate Editor. Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editor of the editorial page are responsible for the development of editorial notices. The board operates independently of Day’s newsroom.

Christi C. Elwood