Ukraine War, March 22, 2022 (III): Recommended NATO responses to Putin’s ongoing invasion and nuclear threats

Developing

Dispatches

1) Fabrice Poithier, “La OTAN puede ayudar a Ucrania a ganar sin entrar en el conflicto armado; La Alianza tiene la opción de tomar una serie de decisiones no exentas de riesgo, pero sin que supongan una implicación militar directa. Hacer demasiado poco presenta el riesgo de unos ucranios subyugados y un Putin listo para su próximo movimiento revanchista,” El País, el 21 de marzo 2022 (23:42 EDT).

Fabrice Pothier is a senior Defense Advisor at the International Institute of Strategic Affairs.

Commentary

Fabrice Pothier draws attention to two assumptions NATO must overcome to assist Ukraine effectively and to defend itself. He writes:

Revised Google translation

The North Atlantic Alliance was created with two basic purposes: to prevent a major war in Europe and, should this fail, to manage escalation. Unfortunately, with the war in the Ukraine, it has failed on both counts. If it weren’t for the strength of the Ukrainian people and the support of some allies, Russian troops would already be concentrated on the NATO border with missiles aimed at their cities.

NATO leaders meeting this week have a chance to redeem the Alliance and help the Ukrainians end the war on favorable terms. They can do so without directly getting involved in the fighting, but they will have to free themselves from two self-defeating dogmas: that the Alliance’s collective defense begins and ends on its territory, and that any action would escalate into World War III.

Poithier believes it has been a mistake not to respond to Putin’s nuclear saber rattling. He proposes the West back up and send unambiguous signals to Putin about its intentions. He writes,

Not to back up and restore some strategic balance in nuclear rhetoric is to let Putin set a very dangerous precedent. What will prevent him from potentially using nuclear weapons the next time he intends to attack another European territory?

This is not only worrying for Europe. Some Indo-Pacific allies must wonder what the US response would be if China were to use Putin’s nuclear playbook to seize some islets.

NATO leaders must use their collective voice to say three things: NATO is a nuclear alliance. It has no intention of using atomic weapons in this conflict. However, the use of nuclear weapons will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict, with devastating consequences for all. This simple but unequivocal language should help NATO redraw a red line. The same can be said of chemical weapons or any other weapon of mass destruction.

Pothier also argues that NATO allies must expand the quantity and quality of weapons it is sending to the Ukrainian forces, taking into account the evolving nature of the conflict and the needs of the Ukranians.

NATO Allies in Western parts of Europe have lagged in delivering arms to Ukraine, as compared to their Eastern European counterparts, Pothier observes, and this gap should be closed.

The quality and sophistication of weapons supplied, particulary air defense systems, should be raised. The U.S., he suggests, should supply Ukraine with its Patriot air defense system. For some reason, the U.S. has denied Ukraine’s requests for the Patriot missile system.

Pothier concludes his op-ed as follows,

Just waiting and making big statements without increasing military pressure on Putin would also reduce the chances of success on the diplomatic front. Now that Zelensky has shown his willingness not to apply for NATO, it has also made the Alliance’s involvement less obvious. NATO leaders should call on Alliance commanders to update plans to ensure continued access to the Black and Baltic seas, as well as cyber plans to actively protect NATO infrastructure. In essence, these measures will send a clear message to Moscow: we are ready to increase pressure in areas critical to Russia.

The Trenchant Observer

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