What’s next for NATO regarding Russia

US troops in Poland, increased presence in the CEE region, frozen ties with Russia that’s what NATO did regarding Ukraine conflict. Could you please shortly evaluate those steps? Would you say that NATO will distance itself from Russia even further? Read few comments.

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

The US deployments in Poland with some additional presence in the Baltics and elsewhere is designed to reassure the nervous new NATO members – it bears little relevance to eastern Ukraine besides signaling that this can ramp up, or ramp down as need be and thus as with sanctions, better for Russia if Putint chooses a different course than he is on now.  Russia has long said it doesn’t want these kinds of things, so NATO and the US are signaling a path to which Moscow can make a wiser choice and de-escalate.  On the other hand, these are very symbolic shows of presence, but that is appropriate at this stage.  There is currently no need to move larger numbers of troops or to change the permanent US force posture in Europe.  These small but symbolic rotations of forces are appropriate – and especially the case if they are used in a way that facilitates putting European allies in the lead role, reassuring on Article V while also adjusting to the new strategic priorities that the United States must also pursue in Asia.  Thus at the core of this is finding ways to ensure that Europe is responsible primarily for its security needs while the US facilitates that and demonstrates the continued relevance of collective defense while at the same time not inadvertently escalating the conflict or complicating the existing degree of consensus in NATO.

Stanley SloanDirector, Atlantic Community Initiative

In my judgment the United States and NATO have pursued a measured approach to the Ukraine issue, based on a balanced assessment of national interests and risks. The door has been left open for more serious measures, should they become warranted.

I think it was important for the United States to put some “boots on the ground” in Poland and the Baltic States. Those troops are not intended to change the military balance in the region, but rather as a signal of US commitment. Russian actions have certainly put the brakes on the process of reducing the US military presence in Europe. This does not take away from putting more emphasis on Asia, but does suggest that this is not a zero-sum game — something that the use of the word “pivot” originally did suggest, whether purposefully or not. I know that there is a school of thought in the United States and in the administration that the Europeans need to “step up” to their responsibilities in the region. While I support, as always, enhanced European contributions to security, this affair demonstrates that NATO only functions effectively when the United States is providing the leadership. Too many Americans think of “Europe” as a unitary actor, which it certainly is not when it comes to defense. Moreover, Putin calls Obama to talk, but lectures to Europe. American power remains essential for any western responses.

I fear that we are not at the end of this story. It is ominous that FM Lavrov warns Kiev that it should not use force to restore control over its country. It seems that the Russians are preparing the ground for further intervention. It is a very difficult situation for the Ukrainian authorities, what with Russian special force troops and clandestine intelligence operators leading local ethnic Russians in the takeovers of facilities and whole cities.

As for the future of NATO policy toward Russia, I believe that it will be a sort of “open door” approach, in which the alliance says that it seeks in the long run a positive partnership relationship with a Russia that returns to normal state behavior in its relations with neighboring states, including those that happen to include Russian-speaking minorities. It will be very difficult for the allies to trust a Russia led by Putin, and so I expect continued reference to the fact that the NATO countries admire and respect the Russian people and that Putin is leading them down a dead end, particularly economically.

Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

I do not think military steps are the real deterrent against further Russian moves in Ukraine.  Rather, it is the possibility of tougher, lasting economic sanctions that is our main leverage.  It is not guaranteed to work, but it makes more sense than believing military maneuvers within NATO countries can affect what happens in Ukraine.

Rebecca  MooreProfessor of Political Science, Concordia College

The increased NATO troop presence in Poland, the Baltic states, etc. is part of a measured but significant effort to reassure nervous Allies that NATO intends to make good on the collective security guarantee to which they are entitled and to deter further Russian provocations in the region. The Obama administration, in particular, has been facing significant pressure from domestic critics to take further steps to reassure NATO’s newest members of the United States’ commitment to NATO and its Article 5 obligations.

As for NATO’s ties with Russia, my understanding is that NATO has suspended all cooperative activities with Russia and restricted the access of Russian diplomats to NATO headquarters. Opportunities for political dialogue at the ambassadorial level and above remain open. I don’t think the Allies are eager to suspend political dialogue at this point, but it’s certainly not impossible that further provocations on Russia’s part might ultimately cause NATO to suspend Russia’s formal representation at NATO. Again,though, I think it’s fair to say that NATO is eager for a diplomatic solution, making more dramatic steps unlikely…at least for now.

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