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Eugene Czolij: NATO must act now or face dreadful consequences later

March 23, 2022 7:32 PM 4 min read
Overlooking through a broken window of a residence near the damaged retroville shopping mall in Kyiv's Podil district after Russian air strikes on March 21, 2022. (NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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An Extraordinary Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government will take place on 24 March 2022 in Brussels. It needs to be a game-changer.

The focal point of this Summit will be the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine one month earlier, namely on 24 February 2022, and NATO’s crucial next steps.

For this Extraordinary Summit to properly address the greatest geopolitical crisis since WWII and not be just another forum for NATO’s leadership to simply show a united front, it is essential that NATO Heads of State and Government keep in mind some important factors when mapping out their critical course of action, which should include the immediate supply of much needed defensive lethal weapons for Ukraine to be able to continue defending its territorial integrity and impose a no-fly zone over its airspace.

First, the extensive war launched by Russia against Ukraine on 24 February 2022 could have been avoided if NATO and its member countries had taken control of the geopolitical agenda instead of allowing an authoritarian despot with insatiable imperialist ambitions to define it.

Had NATO and its member countries imposed severe sanctions and provided Ukraine with the necessary defensive lethal weapons in December 2021 to pressure Russia to deescalate its military buildup on the borders of Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreements – instead of doing so after Russia initiated its full-scale war –  Putin could have backed out of his full invasion plan without losing face, at least in his eyes, by providing then the lame explanation that the buildup was just another military exercise without any intent to further invade Ukraine.

Second, Russia has realized that it will not win a conventional war against Ukraine. This has led to a material increase in war crimes committed daily by Russia’s indiscriminate shelling of civilians and civil infrastructure in Ukraine, resulting in the killing of Ukraine’s civilian population, including innocent children. Russia’s annihilation of the Ukrainian people clearly corresponds to the definition of “genocide” in the Genocide Convention adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly. Incredibly, Ukraine has demonstrated that, notwithstanding Russia’s savagery, Ukraine can overcome this cruel onslaught and regain control of its territorial integrity. To succeed without further devastation, Ukraine must immediately impose a no-fly zone over its airspace with the effective support of NATO and its member countries.

Third, NATO member countries have already been seriously impacted by this war because Europe is now destabilized due to the 10 million Ukrainians that have been forced to leave their homes and become internally displaced persons in Ukraine or refugees in neighbouring countries.

Moreover, Europe’s security has been dramatically compromised. Indeed, on 4 March 2022 the Russian military shelled Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, situated in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia Oblast in Ukraine, that according to Ukraine’s authorities could have resulted in an environmental disaster ten times worse than the 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear plant. In addition, Russia’s military took control of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and imposed inhumane working conditions on the staff, considerably increasing the risk of human error in a place where such errors are unforgiving. For the record, radiation does not need a Schengen visa to travel from Ukraine throughout the European Union.

Russia has also made veiled threats to Euro-Atlantic security by invoking the possibility of resorting to nuclear weapons in case of an “existential threat” to Russia (even though Russia has launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine which is only being fought on Ukrainian soil), as well as raising the prospect of biological and chemical warfare increasing the risk of another pandemic, at a time when the world is still recovering from the effects of COVID-19.

Fourth, Putin considers the US and NATO as Russia’s main enemies capable of a pre-emptive strike and using Ukraine “as a foothold for such a strike.” Indeed, two days before Russia launched its full-fledged war against Ukraine, Putin delivered the following hostile message to the West:

I will explain, that the US strategic planning documents […] stipulate an option of the so-called pre-emptive strike on enemy’s missile systems. And we know who the main enemy for the US and NATO is. It is Russia. NATO documents officially, straightforwardly declare Russia as the main threat for Euro-Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a foothold for such a strike.”

Putin’s strategic course is to dismantle NATO and reconstitute a neo-Soviet empire. This course clearly does not stop with Ukraine.  It continues westward into NATO member countries.  Putin believes that he can achieve these objectives since he calculates (based upon NATO’s current and past actions) that NATO will not trigger Article 5 of The North Atlantic Treaty if faced with Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons.

NATO and its member countries can decide to risk facing such a confrontation in the future and then be forced to pay the ultimate price when their civilian population and infrastructure will be subjected to Russia’s indiscriminate and brutal military attacks, or they can help Ukraine now to stop Russia’s imperialist course of action and ensure peace and stability in Europe.

For our collective sakes, NATO Heads of State and Government must choose the only viable path forward or face the dreadful consequences of sacrificing Ukraine in a futile attempt to appease Putin; namely, what the United Kingdom experienced after its former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sacrificed the Sudetenland to Hitler – a World War.

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