Analyst: US and NATO have few ways to get Putin out of Ukraine foray


Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on Russian foreign policy and naval strategy, said the West had very limited options for making the Kremlin reflect on the invasion of Ukraine. (ANC)

Editor’s Note: Stars and Stripes recently spoke to Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on Russian foreign policy and naval strategy, tensions in Eastern Europe and what Russian President Vladimir Putin may think with regard to Ukraine, the Black Sea and geopolitical competition with the US

The United States and NATO do not have the upper hand when it comes to dissuading Russian President Vladimir Putin from taking military action against Ukraine, according to a Russian expert in foreign policy and naval strategy.

Mistakes such as the 2008 declaration that Georgia and Ukraine should become members of NATO have limited options for responding to Russian actions in the Black Sea region, said Dmitry Gorenburg, senior researcher at the group. Reflection CNA based in Arlington, Virginia.

He said this vague promise created the worst of both worlds, giving Ukraine false hopes while creating a threatening perception in Moscow. The West could follow a similar path now by providing various forms of military support to Ukraine, he said.

“There is clearly no appetite within NATO or the Biden administration to actually use military force to defend Ukraine,” Gorenburg said. “As a result, we find ourselves in a situation where the West is providing Ukraine with rhetorical support, but everyone understands that Ukraine will likely be alone in the event of an actual Russian invasion.”

Economic sanctions, such as those suggested by President Joe Biden in a Tuesday appeal with Putin, are also likely to have little bite. That’s because Russia got stronger in response to sanctions after annexing Crimea in 2014, Gorenburg said.

But giving in to Putin’s demands, such as a guarantee that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO, will likely only lead to additional demands, he said.

Here is the text of the Stars and Stripes interview with Gorenburg:

Question: Is there a possibility that Putin will profit from the geopolitical game at the expense of the United States and NATO?

Reply: It’s not a game for him. There are serious interests at stake for Russia, and the United States and NATO would be well advised to take them into account. There is certainly a geopolitical game going on, but the focus is on geopolitics, not gambling. In other words, Putin is gravely concerned about the negative geopolitical consequences for Russia of Ukraine becoming a de facto NATO partner and take action to prevent or counter this trajectory.

Question: What are the United States and NATO doing when it comes to dealing with Putin?

A: It is good that leaders are attentive and committed. I am not on the side of people who think that talking to Putin is bad because it gives him legitimacy. Maintaining channels of communication is essential to avoid sleepwalking in armed conflict.

Question: What don’t we know about Putin’s state of mind that is important to understand in the context of the current situation with Ukraine?

A: Putin clearly sees Ukraine as a “false nation” and Ukrainians as junior Russians. But this is not the main driver of this crisis, which is much more focused on geopolitical competition with the United States than directly on Ukraine’s role.

Question: Is NATO’s increased presence in the Black Sea an effective tool to deal with Putin’s actions?

A: It’s important to have an occasional presence to emphasize that the Black Sea is not a Russian lake, but unless NATO wants to come to the aid of Ukraine in a conflict, I don’t see the point. of a greater presence. I have no doubt that Putin would be ready to call this bluff if he made the decision to start a war with Ukraine.

Question: How important is it for Putin to regain the territory lost with the breakup of the Soviet Union?

A.: I don’t think adding more territory is a goal for Russia. The goal is geopolitical balance with the United States and to ensure that the West takes Russia seriously as a great power. If there were to be a war in Ukraine, I wouldn’t expect Russia to annex additional territory. Instead, the goal would be to ensure Ukrainian neutrality in exchange for an end to hostilities and a Russian withdrawal from any occupied territory. It would be similar to the Georgia scenario in 2008.

Question: What part of the Black Sea region does Putin want to control?

A: Putin sees the Black Sea as a critical access point for a potential NATO attack on Russian territory. It is also a critical route for Russian naval assets to access the Mediterranean. It is therefore important for Russia to ensure that it has a military advantage in this area. The annexation of Crimea largely achieved this goal, just because of the geographic position of the peninsula and the amount of military force Russia can deploy there.

portrait of the author

alison bath

Alison Bath reports on the U.S. Navy, including the U.S. 6th Fleet, in Europe and Africa. She has reported for various publications in Montana, Nevada and Louisiana, and has served as editor of newspapers in Louisiana, Oregon and Washington.



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