Judy Asks: Can NATO Help End the Ukraine Crisis?

Judy Asks: Can NATO help end the Ukraine crisis?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
16 April 2014

Every week a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

Ian Bond, director of foreign policy at the Centrefor European Reform

NATO can do little to end the Ukraine crisis; but by doing nothing, it could make the consequences much worse.

The leaders of NATO countries, including US President Barack Obama, made a big mistake by ruling out any alliance-led military effort in defence of Ukraine. At the start of the crisis, the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, authorised President Vladimir Putin to deploy forces on Ukrainian territory. At that stage, a clear statement that NATO would not stand by while the territorial integrity of one of its neighbours was violated could have had an important deterrent effect, creating uncertainty in the Kremlin about the implications of invasion. Instead, Russia knew that it could occupy Crimea without the risk of a military confrontation with NATO.

With "Putin’s Martians," who are clearly covert Russian forces, active in Eastern Ukraine, it is now too late for deterrence. The question is whether the Ukrainians will defend their territory; and if they do, whether NATO will help them or merely watch them go down to inevitable defeat at the hands of Russia. Europe’s security landscape will be immeasurably more dangerous if NATO does nothing to prevent the dismemberment of a country of 45 million people that shares borders with four NATO allies.