“Rebutting” President Vladimir Putin

Putin wants Ukraine to stay out of NATO and restore Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe. He also wants to halt NATO’s eastward expansion, which has seen 12 nations join since 1997, from Estonia to Bulgaria. He also wants NATO military forces in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to be phased out. Putin sees himself as the guardian of a beleaguered nation, facing challenges from Finland to Georgia in the north and south.

Moreover, Putin aspires to rebuild a Russian empire on the scale of the Soviet Union. Russia has deployed 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and is deploying S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in Belarus. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, he assists Serb leader Milorad Dodik and plans to supply Russian gas to the region via the Black Sea. After the French leave Timbuktu, Putin will send soldiers to Mali.

There is no appeasement strategy, but NATO members’ responses have been mixed and uncertain, while the United States has taken no definite stance. So far, diplomatic efforts have failed to defuse tensions. Yet keeping the lines of communication open with Moscow remains a top priority. According to Western officials, the international community should not allow any move threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty. If Russia invades, there are different indications about “severe or huge repercussions.”

The European Union has stated that it would not withdraw its embassy personnel from Kyiv. Nevertheless, the EU plans to provide Kyiv with loans and grants, which will require state consent. Denmark will send four F-16 fighter planes to Lithuania to replace a frigate currently stationed in the Baltic Sea. The Netherlands is deploying two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria, while Spain is considering sending ships.

Therefore Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany offered a vague threat that if Moscow attacked Ukraine, severe consequences would follow. Because of its policy of avoiding providing weapons to crisis zones, Berlin has refused to approve military transfers to Ukraine. Because the howitzers were made in Germany, it prevented Estonia from shipping them to Ukraine. Biden’s rash comments on a possible US response to minor incursions reveal a chaotic mind, indecisive strategy, or at the very least strategic uncertainty.

The critical question is whether the United States and the rest of the Western world are serious about stopping or confronting Russian aggression. Ukraine should receive assistance for self-defense, including anti-tank and anti-air missiles, maritime security, and intelligence. Impose export limits on key Russian industries, including a prohibition on microelectronics export.