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Countering Putin
Doubling Down On NATO

The United States needs to respond to Moscow’s partition of Ukraine. Redeploying NATO forces in Eastern and Central Europe would be a good first step to a comprehensive deterrence strategy.

Published on: March 24, 2014
Andrew A. Michta is the M.W. Buckman Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College and a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
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  • Andrew Allison

    Surely you jest? The mess in the Ukraine was engendered by a massive failure of geopolitics, and is being made worse by empty threats that Russian “will pay for this”. There’s a very simple step which does not involve any immediate, “direct U.S. assistance to ensure that the region can credibly deter
    Russia’s military pressure, and, if need be, defend itself and inflict
    serious pain on the aggressor.”, namely invite Ukraine to join NATO. This would, at a stroke, put Putin on notice that any further encroachment into Ukraine would lead to war. Ditto for Moldova and the Balkan states under threat. When will the so-called “leadership” of the West wake up to the fact that it requires stick and stones to break bones.

    • El Gringo

      NATO could extend membership to the threatened countries but that is only half the battle. Defense agreements are good but defense will not protect a country that is a political and economic basket case. Do you really think Ukraine’s NATO membership would have stopped Putin’s ambitions in the Crimea? Putin is following an ancient yet very successful imperial strategy: exploit political weakness, divide, then conquer. A strong defensive deterrent is important but even more important is much stronger political integrity. Russian imperial expansion requires political instability and you can be sure that Russian foreign policy will be aimed at destabilizing it’s neighbors.

      • Corlyss

        “NATO could extend membership to the threatened countries but that is only half the battle.”
        The only value in a mutual defense pact is the other guy showing up. We have no intention of showing up anywhere for the next 3 years. No nation in its right mind would enter such a pact with us or the feckless Eurotrash so obsessed with their navel-gazing. Right now the crowned heads of Europe are trying to find loop holes in Art. 5 so that regardless of whatever happens to the vulnerable, it won’t be a reason to deploy troops.

  • Fat_Man

    NATO’s dead. Has been for years. You can’t have a meaningful alliance with countries that won’t contribute by maintaining their own military establishments.

    Further. Obama is an insurance salesman now. He wouldn’t do anything military. Nor would the American people support beginning a shooting war in Europe.

    What the US should do is terminate Nato. Tell the Euros they are on their own. Money says they will get cracking. If not, they deserve what will happen to them.

    The Poles and the people of the Baltic countries need to absorb their predicament. They can counter Russia by following the Swiss Model. The US should be willing to aid them in creating a citizen army of the entire people.

    • El Gringo

      The Europeans as a whole seem to be remarkably unconcerned with their own defense. But let’s not throw out the baby along with the bathwater. The Poles and Baltic countries are very aware of their situation. A Swiss model works if your country is protected by mountains that are in turn surrounded by nations not intent on dismembering your country. This model would not work for the Balkans and sure as hell won’t work for Poland.

      The U.S. should drop the dead weight that is NATO and focus instead on the countries that actually seem to care about their own defense, i.e. Poland and the Baltics states.

      • Boritz

        Western Europe was content to let the U.S. shoulder their defense while they spent lavishly on their welfare state instead; same with England. And you’re right. NATO is impossible under these circumstances. An additional problem is the U.S. is in the process of following the European model of cut way back on defense and use that money for transfer payments. Only the Chinese have the money and will to build their military and on this course they will one day call the shots as the U.S. did and England before that. What will that world look like? Would prefer not to know.

        • Jim__L

          It’s not too late to redirect the US’s trajectory, but at this point any successful Renaissance of America would have to be profound. Our current elites will fight it tooth and nail, as it would mean the end of all they’ve protested and legislated for.

        • Corlyss

          Well, the uncomfortable truth is that the US wanted it that way so there would be no competitors for US as primus inter pares. So this is what we get for encouraging the Europeans to follow their instincts to find no nails for their hammer and then decide they don’t need a hammer after all.

  • Jim__L

    If Europe holds to its long tradition of being abysmally underfunded and under-prepared for Continental war, America should hold to its long tradition of showing up only after the situation has become truly dire.

    • Corlyss

      I suspect the O-man will NEVER see any situation as dire enough to send troops. Their ideology says war is such a 20th century artifact, violence never solves anything, and the UN should always lead the way in these confrontations. I.e., 3 governing concepts that will ensure that nothing is done.

      • Jim__L

        I wonder if the thought that they may be revitalizing Defense as a winning GOP issue might scare them into action? They do prefer winning to principle, after all.

        • Corlyss

          You won’t hear diddly from Congressional Republicans. Their plan is be silent viz the O-man and his policies outside the beltway because it raises their profile. They want the win in Nov. to be obviously the product of O’s misbegotten policies alone, less any national criticism from them. IMO it’s a surrender strategy that admits they are inept in the marketplace of ideas, even though we know they aren’t, because they can’t seem to figure out the key to drowning out the din from the Democratic Sound Machine.

  • BobSykes

    This is a recipe for war. The crisis exists because the US/EU engineered a coup d’etat that overthrew the legitimate, democratically elected government of the Ukraine and installed a junta consisting entirely of extremist ethnic Ukrainians along with a few left over Nazis and armed criminals. The reunification of the Crimean peninsula with Russia is simply Putin’s response to the coup and his rectification of Khruschev’s original error.

    By continually raising the threats, the US/EU risks the Japanese scenario. Roosevelt thought he could force Japan out of China with harsh economic sanctions. Instead he got Pearl Harbor and the Pacific war. A new European war would quickly go nuclear and would spread to the US.

    The US/EU need to climb down and begin de-escalating the crisis.

    • montfaucon1916

      Mr. Sykes,

      Let us not forget that when Latvia raised concerns regarding their old town of Abrene (now Pytalovo) due to a Russian post WWII redrawing of the map, Putin said something about “Dead Donkey Ears”.


    • LivingRock

      “The crisis exists because the US/EU engineered a coup d’etat that overthrew the legitimate, democratically elected government of the Ukraine and installed a junta consisting entirely of extremist ethnic Ukrainians along with a few left over Nazis and armed criminals.”

      I think Mr. Putin is now a TAI reader. And he’s disguised himself with the screen name “BobSykes”.

      • El Gringo

        It gives me many giggles to see that half the commenters on TAI don’t believe that American or European leaders are capable of tying their own shoes while the other half is convinced that those same leaders somehow managed to successfully and secretly engineer a coup that overthrew the Ukranian government.

    • Corlyss

      The Stephen Cohen gloss?

  • Bretzky1

    What is happening in Ukraine/Crimea is of no concern to the US. If Putin wants to destroy the historical affection that Ukrainians have for Russia by dismembering or swallowing their country, then so be it. Future Russians will roundly curse him for doing so. And the US will have suffered no harm even if the situation comes up roses for Russia.

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