NATO reiterates support to Ukraine - GulfToday

NATO reiterates support to Ukraine

A NATO flag is seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. File/Reuters

A NATO flag is seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. File/Reuters

The main reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 was to prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Ukraine had been seeking NATO membership as did all other east European countries which were bound to the Soviet Union militarily and economically during the communist era. And NATO too refused to say that it would not admit Ukraine.

When the war broke out, all that NATO could do was to offer military and humanitarian aid. It was only the United States that had stepped in with military aid as well. Two hundred and seventy-seven days after the war between Ukraine and Russia, NATO had at last come out with the statement that Ukraine would become a member of the Western military alliance in the future. The dilemma of NATO is real. If it were to admit Ukraine immediately into the alliance, then there is the danger of a Third World War breaking out between the West and Russia. The last time the danger loomed large on the horizon was during the Kosovo war in 1999 when Russian and NATO troops faced each other in Kosovo.

At the NATO foreign ministers’ conference at Bucharest in Romania on Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “NATO will continue to stand for Ukraine as long as it takes. We will not back down.” Slovak Foreign Minister Radislav Kacer echoed Stoltenberg: “The coming months will be a big test for us all. For Ukraine, it is existential, for us moral. We must continue helping Ukraine for as long as necessary.” But there was a hesitation whether the aid should be non-lethal, humanitarian aid or it should include major military aid like tanks. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had been asking for tanks and for effective air defence to fight back the Russians.

Even the Americans are not able to respond to the Ukrainian request. Apart from the hesitation of supplying the latest military hardware, there is also the real issue of stepping up defence production to meet the supply challenge. A Western diplomat said, “We are doing the maximum we can on deliveries, but there is a real problem. The Ukrainians know it. Even the US weapons industry despite its strength is having issues.” But the greater challenge seems to be whether NATO should decide to throw in its military weight behind Ukraine in the fight against Russia. There does not seem to be unanimity on the issue among the 30 members of NATO. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landbergis was however clear. He tweeted: “My message to fellow foreign ministers of NATO meeting is simple: Keep calm and give tanks.” But not everyone in NATO is so clear in their mind and so unambiguous.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak tweeted, “No eloquent speech will say more than concrete action. ‘Patriot’, ‘F-16’, or ‘Leopard’ for Ukraine. It’s not only about air defence or a tank, but also an important support act for people preparing to survive their harshest winter and paying the highest price for Europe’s security.” Ukraine then sees itself as the frontline state against Russian autocracy, and it is making a demand that defending Ukraine is also a means for defending Europe. This is indeed a high stakes security game. Ukraine cannot step back and enter peace talks with Russia though Russia had failed to overrun the country as it had planned. Ukraine is forced to defend its territory, reclaim the land occupied by Russia in the war. So, it is a long war both for Ukraine and for its NATO supporters. It will strain the resources of NATO countries as Europe is going through an acute economic crisis with high inflation and low growth.

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