NATO is effectively trapped in Putin’s Russia escalation against Ukraine. Here’s why and what could be done. The intervention of Francesco D’Arrigo, director of the Italian Institute for Strategic Studies With
each passing day, the war in Ukraine becomes an increasingly bloody tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but also a more dangerous threat to the security of Europe and the world in general.
Moscow’s destructive attack on Ukrainian democratic institutions, the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population and the determination of President Volodymyr Zelenskyj galvanized the resistance of the Ukrainian population, awakened and reunited the free world.
In Moscow, after the killing of some prominent generals of the Russian army and the losses of numerous troops, there is a bad mood among the loyalists of the Tsar of the Kremlin, who in fact would have started the purges among the men closest to him, hitting the heads of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian secret services heirs of the Soviet KGB.
A move that stems from the Muscovite leader’s anger at the unexpected reaction of the West and the degeneration of the power struggle within the regime, which increase the odds that Putin will have other members of his government arrested, held responsible for the unraveling of his image. and that of Russia.
The leader of the Kremlin, misinformed by the members of the Council of Defense Ministers, because he is terrified by the fear of contradicting him or because he disagrees with his decisions, will continue to make even more violent and dangerous emotional decisions WHAT ROLE NATO IS PLAYING NATO
has as its the aim is also to actively deter, defend and counter the entire spectrum of threats at all times – during times of peace, crisis and conflict – at the political, military and technological levels.
Until now, the Atlantic Alliance has adopted a strategy centered on its own defensive institutional mission and on the need to avoid a dangerous escalation of the war involving member countries.
The reasons why NATO could intervene in defense are limited to the case of an armed attack on an allied state by Russia, which would immediately activate Article 5 of the Treaty.
However, the definition of “armed attack” is continuously analyzed and revisited to adapt it to the development of the nature of hostilities and the different and innovative domains of operation.
The original treaty certainly could not have foreseen an attack on New York by a terrorist organization based in Afghanistan, but that was the first time that Article 5 was invoked and led to a ten-year deployment of NATO in Afghanistan, despite being a country of limited strategic value and not bordering on any member of the Atlantic Alliance.
Subsequently, following continuous analysis of the changing threat scenario within which NATO’s defensive mandate must unfold, at the Brussels Summit in June 2021 the allies again changed the concept of “armed attack”, including cyberspace as a domain of operations in which NATO must defend itself as effectively as it defends itself in the air, on land and at sea.
The difficulties of defining what constitutes an “armed attack” under international law have been addressed and resolved in the case of al-Qaeda to include a non-state actor carrying out a terrorist attack. In the case of Russia, on the other hand, which aggressively introduced itself into NATO states through cyber sabotage and interference in democratic processes, aggression was never considered a trigger for Article 5. Meanwhile, Putin has strengthened and extended the its increasingly penetrating projection against Western democracies, but there has been no deterrent or dissuasive reaction on the part of NATO.
As part of NATO’s three core tasks: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security, global deterrence and defense posture, the Treaty currently does not provide for the use of force for humanitarian purposes. Consequently, the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is forcing millions of people to seek asylum from the European member states of the Alliance, cannot trigger a defense reaction by NATO, as it would constitute an escalation in absence of an “armed attack”.
However, NATO must find a way out of the escalation trap in which the Kremlin has imprisoned it.
Adopting a policy of non-intervention for fear of escalation risks damaging the credibility of NATO and undermining the value of what it represents. In the long run, it also risks compromising their ability to defend themselves in the face of any state that threatens the use of nuclear weapons.
NATO should use all forms of deterrence to dissuade Russia, or anyone else, from causing wars on its borders to prevent humanitarian crises such as the one underway against the millions of Ukrainian citizens, forced to flee the atrocities of the Russian war of aggression. This responsibility to protect life is deeply felt by the member states of the Alliance, for many of which it is central to their foreign policy doctrine. The United States, the EU and their allies cannot watch inert the destruction of a democratic state in the heart of Europe, which is not morally and politically sustainable.
Furthermore, being unable to stop Russian military expansion on its borders damages NATO’s credibility as a bulwark against aggression.
For the Kremlin, the successful use of atomic deterrence as a threat of escalation is proof that NATO is unable to cope with Putin’s ambitions, but also proof of weakness that will always lead it to shun any form of engagement and direct conflict with those states that have built, have tested, are currently in possession or will in the future, of nuclear weapons of any kind.
Russia and other nuclear autocracies would feel entitled to repeat expansionist aggressions elsewhere. If Moscow cannot be stopped right away, Putin will be allowed to continue to assume that it can expand with impunity because it will not trigger a NATO reaction, leaving non-NATO European countries hostage to a threatening power that has a license to use it. intimidation and indiscriminate violence to pursue their own interests. Intimidation is a privileged tool of Putin’s domestic and foreign policy, well evidenced by his nuclear threats and the performance of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Moscow is using his narrative aggressively to gain strategic advantage over NATO and to destabilize European citizens.
Putin is leading us towards a gradual but inexorable escalation, careful not to provoke a reaction from NATO. An escalation that could also include the use of weapons of mass destruction by his army. He is an eventuality that must be absolutely avoided and prevented, and if it is not possible to prevent it, unlike what happened in Syria he must receive an adequate response from the international community and NATO.
To unhinge the trap of escalation that is imprisoning the West, it is necessary to adopt a new policy of humanitarian intervention, which allows to effectively project the strength of NATO to protect the lives of millions of Ukrainian citizens. This certainly does not mean going to war against Russia, but the international community must urgently activate a long-term humanitarian intervention, protected if necessary by NATO and / or UN interdiction forces.
A challenging but necessary intervention framework to prevent the Russian army from destroying Ukraine city by city, as it has already done in Chechnya and Syria, without the West intervening to stop the massacre and the flight of civilians.
The United States, along with the European Union and Britain, have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia, which are paralyzing its economy and destroying the savings of millions of Russians at unprecedented speed and scale, but the Kremlin’s decisions they are determined exclusively by the balance of power and hard power, which is why the West must deploy an immediate policy of deterrence to support and favor the return to the diplomatic path and to impose an immediate ceasefire.

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