Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Putin Hasn’t Given Up His Designs on Ukraine

By David Petraeus and John Herbst
Feb. 17, 2016 6:31 p.m. ET

In a clear response to continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO ministers last week approved the deployment of troops on the alliance’s eastern flank for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Under NATO’s new “enhanced” forward presence, maritime forces will be increased in the Baltic Sea and land forces sent to reinforce defenses in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

While these changes are prudent, none directly addresses the situation on the ground today in Ukraine, which remains a non-NATO member. In recent weeks, Russian-backed separatists have sharply increased their attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk—a stark reminder that President Vladimir Putin hasn’t given up his designs on eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Putin invaded Russia’s western neighbor two years ago because he saw its emergence as a stable, democratic country integrated with Europe as a fundamental threat. While he has scaled back overt Russian aggression, this appears to be a temporary tactic designed to win sanctions relief, even as he ratchets up Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

In addition to NATO’s recent announcement, the U.S. and its NATO allies would be wise to bolster Ukrainian deterrence against further Kremlin adventurism, and to make clear that the price of such adventurism for Russia will be high if deterrence fails. The first step is to provide more effective defensive weapons to Ukrainian forces.

The U.S. and its European partners have done an impressive job imposing economic costs on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. But they haven’t done enough militarily to support Ukraine, which in 1994 gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in exchange for trans-Atlantic assurances about the safeguarding of its territorial integrity. These assurances have proven meaningless.

(More here.)

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