“Never again” was the oath most widely pledged after the end of World War II. Yet for more than 100 days now, Russia’s brutal war of aggression has been raging in Ukraine. The war has fundamentally challenged the security architecture of the West. NATO’s initial response was admirable. But now we must go further — by making urgently needed adjustments to the alliance and its structure. NATO must adapt to a radically changed security environment.
Russia has been publicly challenging the West for at least the past 15 years. It has tried to gain the upper hand through aggressive action, first in Georgia in 2008, then in Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas in 2014. Despite all this, some Western countries have continued business as usual with Moscow, some even expanding their cooperation. For decades, the West has failed to understand what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime is about — namely expansionism, revisionism, violence, rule by fear and coercion. Russia is not interested in creation or cooperation, but rather in destruction and rule by force.
Feb. 24, 2022, was the day when the rose-tinted glasses fell off. Now the countries of the West have imposed stringent sanctions on Russia and are delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine. Europe has started moving toward energy independence from Russia. It might seem as though a lot has been done, but this is not enough to stop the war in Ukraine. And are we really doing enough to stop Putin from continuing his aggression elsewhere?
The time has come to understand that Russia cannot be stopped by persuasion, cooperation, appeasement or concessions. Russia takes such gestures as a sign of weakness, as permission to expand and intensify its onslaught. When Putin hears Western leaders talk about the need to negotiate, the need for a cease-fire, the need to avoid “humiliating” Russia, he is only encouraged to increase his gamble for world conquest. Recently Putin even compared himself to Peter the Great and openly declared his determination to take back lands previously occupied by the Russian Empire. Such rhetoric clearly demonstrates his contempt for one of the most fundamental pillars of the rules-based international order: the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. [Continue reading…]