Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.
WITH THE Cold War’s demise, the menacing Russia that long loomed over Europe seemed to vanish. The Russia of 1992 was just a fragment of its historic self in military punch and economic weight. Not even Russia’s still-formidable nuclear arsenal deflected perceptions of decline. It was inevitable, then, that Western policy makers would feel that this shrunken Russia was more to be ignored than feared. They were wrong.
Military machines on both sides are engaged in nearly non-stop war games aimed at displaying their readiness to their jittery publics, and scary near-misses between warplanes are multiplying as Russia‘s Air Force tries to return to its Soviet-era pattern of global patrolling. All this is happening at a time when dialogue, even at the highest levels, is almost nonexistent.
The situation in Ukraine and in insurgent areas of the Donbass is steadily deteriorating. This is proved by the clashes of the last few days, which, though limited, have certainly been the most violent since January 2015. The “Minsk 2” agreements are in a process of dissolution, and this largely due to the Kiev government. This was predictable. We must therefore review the situation in order to attempt to understand how we got here.
Barack Obama has used the close of the G7 summit in Germany to deliver his strongest criticism yet of Vladimir Putin, lambasting the Russian president’s isolationist approach as the seven leaders signalled their readiness to tighten sanctions against Russia if the conflict in Ukraine escalates.
It is hard, given the tenor of the policy discussion on Capitol Hill over the past week, to escape the conclusion that President Obama is under intense pressure—not only from both political parties, but also, disturbingly, from the NATO supreme allied commander—to wade ever deeper into the Ukrainian morass.
Keep an eye on Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. On Monday, Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s best-known foreign policy analysts and a man with good Kremlin antennae, tweeted: “Growing concern in Moscow that Ukraine and Moldova will seek to squeeze Transnistria hard, provoking conflict with Russia.
The Russia-Ukraine crisis could last decades, the former secretary general of NATO has warned, telling CNBC that the West should consider arming the Ukrainians in a fight that is “part of a bigger Russian master plan.” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who led the international military alliance of NATO between 2009 and 2014, said that Russia continued to destabilize Ukraine, with “tens of thousands” of troops amassed along the Russian-Ukrainian border and “actively operating” within the country.
For two days here in the German Alps, President Obama has struggled with many of the issues — Russian aggression, the Islamic State, climate change and sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran — that will define his legacy. The meetings of the leaders of the seven largest industrialized democracies have been dominated by the fighting in Ukraine and the need to maintain tough sanctions designed to punish Russia for its backing of separatist fighters there.
American troops are training Ukrainian forces on Russia’s doorstep, a move seen as a major provocation by Vladimir Putin’s regime. The live-fire drills and counter-insurgency exercises involving about 300 U.S. paratroopers are a key bone of contention for the Moscow, which the West accuses of helping to arm pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine.