Here are the five crucial tests Ukraine and its global partners and allies must face as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criminal war nears its crucial stage.
Some are short-term, others have generational consequences. What unites them is that all five are necessary to turn Putin’s murderous authoritarian threat into an historic opportunity for the civilized world to carve out a better future.
- Can Ukraine’s friends, particularly in Europe and North America, not only maintain but strengthen their unity and solidarity in the face of Putin’s growing brutality? In the face of global energy prices and rising inflation, can Ukraine’s friends avoid the inevitable fatigue of democracies and remain focused on a seemingly distant threat?
- Despite Moscow’s escalation threats, including the possible use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield, will Ukraine’s arms suppliers continue to provide Kyiv with greater military capabilities? With these improved weapons, Ukrainian troops can not only hold their territory occupied by Russian troops, but also retake it.
- Can NATO overcome opposition from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and possibly others – to Finland and Sweden’s imminent bid for allied membership? Can it grant protection status to Finland and Sweden until they are full members and speed up this process? Can the US Senate ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership before the summer break and thus provide the decisive impetus?
- Can Ukraine and her friends do more to establish the factually correct narrative worldwide that Putin alone is responsible for this deliberate and unprovoked war? Can they more effectively reach out to the Russian people to better understand that Putin waged a war on their behalf that was not in their interest?
- Finally, can the US and its global allies and partners strategically defeat Putin and weaken Russian military capabilities enough that Moscow is unable to continue the war in Ukraine or repeat it elsewhere? Can NATO and its global partners strengthen themselves enough to counter such threats more effectively in the future?
That’s a long list, and it’s just the beginning.
The bottom line is that Ukraine’s unexpected resilience, ingenuity, patriotism and bravery have offered the free world the opportunity not only to save Ukraine, but to reverse years of democratic drift and authoritarian resurgence.
If we are to prevent domination of the jungle from replacing the rule of law, now is the time to act.
In the years to come, it will be just as important that the transatlantic community includes Russia and Russians as part of President George HW Bush’s dream of “a whole and free Europe.” One should already think about how this is to be done. In the meantime, however, Ukraine’s friends must first quell Putin’s revanchist, historically perverted obsession with restoring a false image of “Ancient Rus” by any means necessary.
The past week has underscored the positive momentum towards that goal.
Finland and Sweden edged closer to NATO membership; the UK tightened sanctions that breached Putin’s wall of secrecy surrounding his family and alleged girlfriend; Russian troops appeared to be withdrawing from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and Ukrainian troops began a counter-offensive toward the eastern city of Izyum, targeting Russian supply lines into the Donbass region.
Finland and Sweden last week approached NATO membership applications, which should become official in the coming days.
“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a statement Thursday, making all but certain that Finland, with its 810-mile border with Russia, would do so after other steps in the next days. “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance.”
On Friday, all Swedish political parties presented a revised assessment of a deteriorating security situation in their region. Six of the eight parties supported conclusions endorsing NATO membership after 200 years of neutrality. The Swedish government is expected to make the formal decision to apply for NATO membership on Monday.
For those misguided voices still arguing that NATO membership destabilizes rather than secures a more peaceful Europe, speak to officials from those countries who have seen the three Baltic NATO members remain safe while Russia keeps Ukraine in check Non-NATO member, overrun.
Turkish President Erdogan is the NATO leader who has so far provided the biggest opposition to Sweden and Finnish enlargement based on what Turkey says, Sweden’s longtime haven for Kurdish terrorists. But Erdogan’s language suggests that this is more of a negotiating ploy than an immovable object.
“We follow the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not positive,” said Erdogan. “At this point in time, it’s not possible for us to see that positively.”
Not only has Putin’s war failed to take Ukraine, but it has triggered global shifts that extend well beyond Finland and Sweden.
After receiving the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had brought about “a paradigm shift in geopolitics”.
Draghi added: “It has strengthened relations between the European Union and the United States, isolating Moscow and raising deep questions for China. These changes are still ongoing, but one thing is certain: they will be with us for a long, long time.
“We must continue to support the courage of Ukrainians as they fight for their freedom and the safety of all of us,” he said. There should be peace, he argued, but added: “It will be up to the Ukrainians to determine the terms of that peace and no one else.”
The threats of a historic nature have been clear since Putin began massing his troops for the February 24 attack last year. Now, Draghi said, the options are clearer.
“The war in Ukraine has the potential to bring the European Union even closer together,” he said. “We must remember the urgency of the moment and the scale of the challenge. This is Europe’s hour and we must seize it. The choices facing the European Union are brutally simple. We can be masters of our own destiny or slaves to the decisions of others.”
What Draghi says makes him optimistic that Europe is not tackling this alone, but is empowered by “the timeless bond” of the European-American relationship.”
The test now is whether the current unity and momentum of Ukraine’s friends can withstand Putin’s escalating brutality and penchant for exhaustion.
— Friedrich Kempe is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council.
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/15/op-ed-ukraine-and-its-allies-must-tackle-5-tests-for-the-civilized-world-to-shape-a-better-future.html Ukraine and its allies must pass 5 tests so that the civilized world can create a better future