NATO Edges Closer to War

NATO Edges Closer to War

Europe is closer to the brink of all-out combat than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

Russia has massed of 100,000 troops, well equipped as an invasion force, on its border with Ukraine.  Vladimir Putin’s military has successfully tested powerful new missiles aimed at intimidating the west from responding. The U.S. Defense Department  notes that there has been “…a significant Russian buildup and unusual concentration of forces in and around Ukraine.”

In February 2014, the Kremlin invaded and annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine. The Obama-Biden Administration did not respond in any significant way. Putin was constrained from further adventurism during the Trump era, but now, with Biden in the White House, Moscow may be gambling that once again the U.S. will not take any significant action.

A takeover of Ukraine would be seen as a major step in re-establishing the Soviet Empire, representing a clear threat to the rest of Europe.

America’s NATO allies are clearly and deeply concerned.

Speaking at the Reuters Next conference NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that ”we all made it very clear that there will be a high price to pay” for any further Russian aggression against Ukraine. The NATO chief highlighted the increasingly bellicose rhetoric emanating from the Kremlin about Ukraine. “What we do know, is that not only has Russia increased its military presence closer to Ukraine’s borders, but … they’ve used military force against Ukraine before. They did that in 2014, when they invaded and illegally annexed Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, and they continue to support the armed separatists in Donbass in eastern Ukraine.”

The secretary general said NATO has called on Russia to de-escalate the situation. “We can hope for the best and call on Russia to not once again use military force against a sovereign, independent Ukraine, but we need to be prepared for the worst.”

Stoltenberg scoffed at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that Russia is only responding to Ukraine’s warlike action. “The whole idea that Ukraine represents a threat to Russia is absolutely wrong,” the secretary general said. “Ukraine has been attacked by Russia. Russia is occupying parts of Ukraine. Crimea is part of the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.”

In addition to its 2014 invasion when Russia invaded, occupied and illegally annexed Crimea,  it also provides military support to militant separatists in eastern Ukraine. “On top of that, we know that Russia is responsible for aggressive hybrid attacks [and] cyber attacks against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “So, the whole idea that Ukraine is a threat to Russia is turning the world upside down. It is Russia that over many years now has been responsible for many types of aggressive actions against Ukraine.”

Individual NATO nations — including the United States — have provided aid to Ukraine in its struggle. NATO, as an alliance, has provided training to Ukrainian service members and advised Ukrainian officials on ways to improve their capabilities.

Stoltenberg called the Russian build-up “unexplained and unjustified,” and the NATO nations want the Russians to stop the provocations. “If they do the opposite, and actually decide to once again use force against Ukraine, then we have made it clear … during the NATO Foreign Minister meeting in Latvia today that Russia will then have to pay a high price; there will be serious consequences for Russia,” he said. “And that’s a clear message from NATO.”

Despite the clarity from NATO, the alliance is unlikely to act without the full support of the Biden Administration. The White House has not taken the steps that would signal preparations for a serious military engagement. The Biden defense budget actually cuts the Pentagon’s purchasing power by approximately three percent.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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