NATO gets relevant again

NATO gets relevant again September 3, 2014

We might agree that Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine, while regrettable,  doesn’t concern us.  But if Vladimir Putin did the same thing to Estonia, another bordering country with a large and complaining Russian minority, we would be at war.  That’s because Estonia and the other Baltic Republics are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The members of that organization, founded to deter the Soviet Union, have a pact that an attack on one member nation is an attack on them all, and that they will all go to war against the attacker.  Tomorrow a NATO summit begins, and it’s being hailed as the most important since the end of the Cold War.

NATO seemed like an outdated relic once the Cold War ended, but now a militant, aggressive Russia is throwing its weight around again.  See why Anne Applebaum, an American journalist married to a Polish official and living in Poland, thinks a war could, in fact, break out.

Tomorrow and Friday  the members of N.A.T.O. (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) will have a summit meeting in Wales, with President Obama and other national leaders in attendance.  It’s being described as the most important such meeting since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Below, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and a Swedish diplomat say what they think NATO should do.  From Kurt Volker & Erik Brettberg,  NATO must stand up to Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine – The Washington Post:

Vladimir Putin is placing a cynical bet that he can invade Ukraine just one week before a NATO summit — and that NATO will do nothing to stop him. The alliance must prove him wrong.

Despite sharp words from Brussels, Washington, London and Berlin, the Russian president believes that NATO lacks the will to challenge his dismemberment of Ukraine. By sending troops, tanks and artillery directly into the Ukrainian fighting, Putin is making a point: He will fight for Ukraine, and NATO will not. He is calling NATO’s bluff.

The Western response will be read carefully from Kiev to Tallinn to Moscow. For the sake of Ukraine’s integrity as a country, for future European security and for NATO’s credibility as a defense organization, NATO leaders need to make some tough decisions and push back militarily against Russia.

NATO has already taken significant, positive military steps concerning its members in the east — particularly Poland, the Baltic states and Romania. This is important: The alliance’s only obligation is to collective defense. That must be sacrosanct. NATO has increased air policing over the Baltics, expanded exercises, promised to strengthen its defense planning and decided to deploy ground forces temporarily in Eastern Europe. These strong steps will cause Russia to think twice before expanding its aggression from Ukraine to NATO member states.

However, drawing such a bright line around NATO territory is being read by Putin as a signal that non-members such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are — literally — up for grabs. With Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in the open, NATO needs to focus not only on defending alliance members but also on crisis management and projecting power beyond NATO territory.

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