Monday, September 01, 2014

We need to tell the truth about what Russia is doing in Ukraine

NATO must face up to the realities of Putin’s war of aggression in eastern Europe – and take material steps to support Ukraine

Wesley Clark, The Guardian, Sunday 31 August 2014 13.30 EDT

As the Ukraine crisis has intensified over the past six months, Russia has been developing a new form of warfare – inserting special forces, provoking, and slowly, deliberately escalating the conflict. Russian actions flout international law and the agreements that have assured stability in the post-cold war world. But warnings and sanctions have thus far failed. The Nato summit in Wales this week offers the best, and perhaps last, opportunity to halt aggression in Europe without major commitments of Nato forces. But to do so requires a deeper understanding of the situation and much more resolute allied action.

First, Vladimir Putin’s actions against Ukraine haven’t been “provoked”. They are part of a long-term plan to recreate a greater Russia by regaining control of Ukraine and other states in the “near abroad”. Russia is not going to admit that it has invaded because to do so might invite a stronger Nato response. But until Nato governments unambiguously label Russian actions “aggression” and “invasion”, they will have difficulty mustering support for the stronger actions that needs to be taken.

Putin is not likely to be dissuaded by stronger sanctions; while they may disrupt some elements of the Russian economy, and he would of course prefer not to face them, he also uses sanctions himself to strengthen his leverage over those sectors most engaged with the west, and to gain sympathy from his own “electorate”.

Nato must act decisively to strengthen member states that feel threatened by Putin’s actions. Its forces should be permanently stationed in the Baltics, Poland and eastern Balkans. Its rapid reaction forces should be bolstered. Additionally, more demanding military exercises should be held. Nato’s nuclear deterrent must be re-emphasised. Long overdue modernisation should be undertaken. All this requires greater resources, including budget and manpower.

(More here.)

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