Does NATO have any real business with Ukraine?

From  the statement by NATO Defence Ministers on Ukraine: …NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers… So would you say the the Alliance can play some role in the current situation or not, and why? Read few comments.

Igor Merheim-EyreProgramme Coordinator, Global Europe Centre, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent

In my view, the importance is not in what NATO can do, but rather in the message it is able to convey to the Russians; and the message must be clear: that the Alliance is committed to safeguarding Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that any unilateral action in Ukraine will only fuel the crisis further.

We cannot think of NATO’s role in terms of a military stand-off with the Russian Armed Forces, however, a clear message from the NAC on Sunday can open a dialogue either on sending an international observation mission to Crimea, or bring Russia to a roundtable discussion with Kyiv and the Western allies. If the NAC is followed by inaction, it can have dire consequences not only for Ukraine, but also Russia’s Near Abroad (Georgia and Moldova in particular), and the integrity of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Let us hope for a diplomatic resolution, but let us not fool ourselves – Russia has geopoliticised the crisis, one that has been primarily about simple human security (employment, standard of living, corruption etc.). In Europe we have failed to see the Russian interpretation of events because we have been for too long under the blind impression that the post-Soviet Russia somehow shares our view of the world. This is a mistake; we are still dealing with the Russia created by Peter the Great and it continuous to act so; power politics is the name of the game. Therefore, to paraphrase Robert Cooper, when in the jungle, NATO allies must be prepared to observe the rules of the jungle.

Thomas Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs, U. S. Naval War College

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and thus NATO has no defense obligations in this area. It does not have a role to play, in my view, because NATO is viewed with suspicion by many Russians and many of Russia’s supporters in Ukraine. But there is no need for NATO involvement: I think this is a larger issue for the entire European security community, including NATO, the OSCE, and the European Union, all of whom have a stake in ensuring that this situation does not turn to violence between Europe’s two largest countries.

Sean KayProfessor, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University

NATO needs to stay as quiet as possible about Ukraine right now and for the foreseeable future. It is a good forum to coordinate the various American and European responses diplomatically. However, any perception of NATO involvement in this would be seen in Moscow as a provocation used to justify further engagement in Crimea or beyond. The essential message has been delivered, that if Russia chooses badly it will pay major costs to its global prestige. But the more NATO is seen as having a role in this, the more that will be used by hardliners in Russia to justify their actions. Questions of article 4 consultations are not necessary.  These kinds of coordinated, quiet, and informal discussions are the lifeblood of NATO.  Invoking NATO formally at this point in time, would exacerbate a situation when the interests in Europe and the United States lie in de-escalation.

Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University

NATO absolutely has real business with Ukraine. First, from a general standpoint, NATO would prefer a stable and peaceful Europe, and the current events in Ukraine are a threat to that long-standing goal; second, NATO also has a specific relationship with Ukraine. Granted, the efforts of Ukraine to join NATO’s Membership Action Plans in 2008 failed, but NATO and Ukraine still cooperate on a number of fronts. Third, Ukraine borders with 4 NATO member states (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania), so NATO cannot remain indifferent to the ongoing events. If the situation in Ukraine further spiraled out of control, there might even be risks of spill over among NATO member states. Thus, chaos in Ukraine would pose a more immediate threat to NATO than the current civil war in Syria. But if NATO clearly has business with Ukraine, determining what it should or should not do is a trickier proposition. Too strong a reaction at this stage could backfire and further inflame the situation – and NATO cannot resort to Article V unless there is an attack against one of its members.

At this stage, it might make sense for NATO to publicly reiterate its support for a sovereign, independent and stable Ukraine, as it did a few days ago in a statement, while privately warning Russia not to cross certain red lines. In the meantime, NATO could also plan some contingency steps, such as increasing its troop presences in its member states bordering Ukraine, should Russia choose to continue to escalate its involvement in Ukraine. In other words, NATO should act to contain Russia, without provoking it.

Rebecca  MooreProfessor of Political Science, Concordia College

I believe that NATO currently has much at stake in Ukraine.  Recent developments involving Russia challenge NATO’s vision of a Europe “whole and free” in the same way that Russia’s invasion of Georgia did in 2008.  As NATO officials have repeatedly stated the goal of a united and democratic Europe remains unfinished business.  It is therefore imperative that NATO respond to this challenge to its vision of a liberal European security order by strongly supporting Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty. Given that Ukraine is also a long-standing NATO partner,  how NATO deals with this situation could also have important implications for how the Alliance and the partnership opportunities it offers are perceived by its partners across the globe.    Indeed, NATO has continued to argue that the furtherance of its liberal democratic values remains central to all of its partnership efforts.

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