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The White House and NATO allies have been scrambling for a month to generate a response towards the Russian positioning of 100,000 troops alongside the Ukrainian border. According to analysts, this deployment has been one of the most extensive Russian troop build-ups in the European continent since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. This action has been primarily viewed as an attempt by Putin to gain leverage vis-à-vis America. As the threat of invasion persists, such an outcome could bear disastrous consequences for Russia, Ukraine, and the rule-based global order established in 1945. Therefore, evading a war is crucial, and there is a wide range of steps that NATO could pursue, ranging from diplomacy to robust military deployment.

How is NATO likely respond? – A conundrum 

There is a wide range of dilemmas that exists in the US strategy towards possible Ukrainian invasion; for instance: 

  • Will NATO deploy military force? 

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, stated in a letter that Washington would pursue a “serious diplomatic path” to resolve tensions with Russia over Ukrainian crises. However, no concessions were made of Russia’s demand, such as the addition of Ukraine to the NATO alliance. The US has made clear that it will adhere to the core values that it promotes and defends, including Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; therefore, America recognizes the right of Ukraine to determine its own security arrangements.

A senior diplomat at the state department said that the USA is looking at a variety of options to help Ukraine defend itself; it ranges from the export of defensive arms, advice, training of Ukraine’s military to hold a fight in the face of more extensive, and more conventional military presence of Russia. For the Biden administration, there exists no military solution to the crisis. Furthermore, since Ukraine is not a member state of NATO, the alliance is not bound by the treaty for its defence. Biden has asserted that allied troops will not fight against Russia in case of a Russian invasion. However, Ukraine was promised in 2008 that eventually, it would be granted accession to NATO. Currently, to fend off the Russian threat, the alliance is closely working with Ukraine to bolster its defensive capabilities and modernize armed forces. For example, the US special operation forces currently rotate in and out of the state to equip Ukrainian troops with the necessary capabilities. Moreover, Canada conducts a training program in Ukraine; Denmark has also been increasing its attempts to bring the Ukrainian military’s standard at par with NATO. NATO has also sought to aid Ukraine to defend itself in the face of cyber-attacks, which also includes transferring safe communication apparatus for the military command.  

  • Supplying weapons to Ukraine- bolstering defense

When it comes to arms and ammunition, the USA, UK, and the Baltic countries are supplying weapons to Ukraine, which includes anti-tank missiles, boats, small arms, etc. In October 2021, the Ukrainian military fired The Bayaraktar TB2 drone in order to demolish Russian mobile artillery in the Donbas region. Over a phone call, Putin expressed his displeasure with Turkish president Erdogan. Northern European states referred to as the Baltic Nations have also backed up Ukraine. For example, Estonia has supplied javelin anti-armour missiles to Kyiv; Latvia and Lithuania have shipped Stringer anti-aircraft missiles, but only after acquiring American approval to transfer the weapon. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have troubled history with the former Soviet Union, with Estonia listing Russian undue aggression in Europe as a matter of top’s European defence concern. The UK has transferred anti-tank missiles to Kyiv; Britain has alleged that Moscow is attempting to establish a puppet regime in Ukraine.

The US and NATO countries are arming Ukraine to ascertain Kyiv that it has strong Western backing in the face of Russia’s aggressive posture; Putin has also raised its concerns over NATO countries supplying modern weaponry to Ukraine.

On the contrary, Germany, in particular, has been conspicuously disinclined towards sending weapons to Ukraine. According to the German defence minister, supplying arms will not be helpful in attempting to descale tensions between Moscow and Kyiv. Germany asserted it still stands on Ukraine’s side, but it has never encouraged the export of lethal arms and ammunitions. Additionally, Berlin has purportedly impeded Estonia from supplying German-origin military hardware to Kyiv. Instead, Berlin has promised a complete field hospital and training of Ukrainian troops, amounting to as much as 6 million dollars. On 19th January 2021, Germany offered to provide 5000 military helmets to Ukraine to fend off the Russian threat, provoking outrage in some areas. Some Ukrainian officials derided the offer as a “joke;” the Kyiv mayor added that the entire situation left him “speechless” and that Berlin does not realize that their country is confronted with fully equipped Russian troops that can initiate invasion at any given time.

  • USA puts 8500 troops on alert- an abrupt change in approach?

The US Department of Defense has put thousands of troops, 8500 to be exact, on standby to deploy Eastern Europe amid the looming fear of Russian ground invasion into Ukraine. On 17th January, the US president alerted the military units, representing an abrupt shift in the US approach towards the entire senior. For several weeks, the US administration clearly articulated its goals and sought to resolve the crises through diplomatic means; however, lack of results and continuous buildup of Russian troops has promoted a revelation of Biden’s policy. According to a Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, these forces will not be transferred to Ukraine and would not partake in any military action; instead, they would serve as reimbursements in areas such as Poland or Romania. Such an action would offer reassurance to NATO allies and act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. However, if activated, the force would comprise a part of the NATO Response Force located in the Eastern part of Europe.

What signifies an abrupt change in approach is the alliance’s concern over the potential spillover impact of confrontation between Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea region. After America deployed troops on heightened alert, Denmark is transferring a frigate to the Baltic Sea as well as F-16 warplanes to Lithuania. Moreover, Spain has also contributed minesweeper and a warship to NATO forces in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean region. Madrid and Netherlands are also considering sending fighter jets and F-35 warplanes to Bulgaria by April, respectively. Similarly, upon NATO’s command, France might also supply troops to Romania.

  • NATO alliance in the Black Sea

NATO countries that share a border with Russia, or near the contest Black sea in the South, have requested more troops and military hardware to build up a deterrent against probable Russian invasion. These troops will be added to the 5000 NATO troops already deployed in Poland and three Baltic counties; this is what NATO refers to as “enhanced forward presence.” Moreover, the government of Bulgaria has stated that it is prepared to deploy 1000-strop troops in the country in strong cooperation with NATO and other allied countries. The final decision would come by April or May. Moreover, the Western alliance has a land force of as many as 4000 troops in Romania as well as military personnel deployed at bases in the country. France has also offered its forces to Romania, due to which the latter may experience a greater NATO presence. There are also ongoing talks between US and Romania over increasing military presence on its soil. Since 2017, the multi-national forces stationed in Romania have been limited to land command, with no air or maritime forces.

Future of NATO strategy to deter Russia- why is progress slow? 

The reason why the response of the alliance has been relatively slow is that, for once, Russia has repeatedly asserted that it does not intend to invade Ukraine. Therefore, NATO has offered to conduct more talks with Russia in accordance with the format of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. Secondly, NATO is an alliance that comprises 30 states, with each one having different priorities; for example, President Biden is dealing with the Post-Afghan debacle, Germany post-Angela Markel, Britain post-Brexit, France is dealing with pre-election spring. In such a scenario, when decisions are to be taken collectively, it can take a little while to conduct joint missions or exercises. 

Currently, the discussion of NATO is focused on whether or not to increase the number of troops and their rotation throughout Eastern Europe; this issue is likely to be the highlight of allied defense ministers scheduled to take place in Brussels in mid-February. Similarly, the most significant decision will come as late as June, when NATO authorities are supposed to meet for a summit in Madrid. In this meeting, the alliance is likely to agree on a new master plan, referred to as a Strategic Concept. It formulates a part of NATO’s strategy to deter Russian aggression.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.


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