Who Thinks Putin is Joking?Marc Ash Reader Supported News
While it is certainly fair to say that Ukraine is taking far greater losses than it wants to, it is also important to note that those losses are far greater than they need to be. The means to mitigate Ukrainian losses and hasten the end of the Russian occupation are well within the capabilities of the US-led NATO alliance.
Crucially Western analysts rely on the false notion that Western nations are doing Ukraine a favor by supplying arms and aid. But Western nations don’t do favors for distressed nations. There is no humanitarian exception in geopolitical thinking. Unfortunately the only consideration is self interest. The aid to Ukraine has a purpose.
Self preservation is the principal motivation driving most of NATO’s members as they consider their assistance to Ukraine. But not all NATO members. One NATO member, the US has the least concerns about its security in the current conflict. The US however also has the greatest resources, both economically and militarily.
It is American dominance that mandates adherence to a game plan that confounds anyone hoping for Ukrainian victory. Why is NATO doing or not doing what it could be doing to help Ukraine? Because the United States will not allow it. That effectively kneecaps the Ukrainian war effort, but it has not mitigated the threat posed by Russia to NATO’s European members. Far from it.
Far from remaining static the current conflict and the threat posed by Russia’s aggression has grown significantly during the course of the conflict. The threat is growing and continues to grow each day. As Russia continues to test NATO’s resolve and finds it lacking, it grows bolder even as it becomes more desperate.
When Putin says his war is against the US and NATO he has two possible motivations, either he is joking or he is deadly serious. From all appearances he is deadly serious and he fully intends to make good on the threat, if he is allowed to do so.
There is an East-West tension in Europe, but there is also an East-West tension within the NATO alliance itself. The interests of NATO’s European members do not always align precisely with those of its dominant partner the US. This is particularly true on the issue most central to NATO’s formation, defense. Within the NATO alliance the level of urgency increases in proportion to the proximity to the conflict. What might not be a major concern in Washington might be a far more urgent matter in Warsaw or Vilnius.
Litigating Article 5
Donald Trump seemed determined end America’s participation in the NATO alliance, Joe Biden has made a point of renewing US commitment, but neither ever seriously considered the ramifications of Article 5 being invoked to repel a full-scale Russian invasion. War has come and for Biden it is unwelcome.
Biden is a political survivor. As such he views all problems through a political lens. Putin a career KGB intelligence officer well knows this. Biden like Obama before him makes a priority of deescalation in his messaging with Russia. While that seems prudent, it dos not account for what Putin might think or do. When Biden says things like, “We do not want war with Russia … We do not want World War III,” etc. that resonates with American and Western voters, but it has the opposite effect on Putin. To Putin it signaled an opportunity to attack.
The US is by far the most militarily capable partner in the NATO alliance, but the countries on NATO’s eastern flank are, in the context of current conflict the most vulnerable, and it’s creating tension among friends.
From the earliest stages of the war team Biden set up rules for what weapons it would provide and those it would not. The rules seemed far more driven by politics than military judgement. The result has been narrow public support for Biden at home, a nightmare in eastern Europe and an ever growing threat of a war that will expand into the world conflict Biden sought to avoid.
One type weapon Biden’s team refused to provide were aircraft, any aircraft. This put the Ukrainians at a major disadvantage, gave the Russians a clear advantage and allowed the conflict to expand greatly. The way the controversy over US made aircraft was resolved provides a blueprint for how NATO’s eastern flank can have a greater say in their own defense.
While the US remains NATO’s dominant player NATO’s other members are learning that as an organized block within the coalition they can gain concessions, under favorable circumstances. There was no reasonable argument for withholding Western aircraft from Ukraine, from a NATO security perspective. NATO’s Eastern flank members, those with the greatest experience repelling Russian military aggression, increasingly began to work together cooperatively to create the energy to stimulate concessions from their partners with more resources.
NATO’s other half undoubtedly feels the urgency and appears to thinking more clearly than their partners who can better afford political considerations. The time is right for NATO’s Eastern flank to provide guidance with judgement and resolve.
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