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NATO: Grow a Backbone
Personal Analysis and Commentary by Diane Francis,
Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council,
publisher of a Substack newsletter
Thursday, March 24, 2022
February 24, Putin launched his murder spree across Ukraine, on the same date in 1920 that the Nazi Party was founded in Germany. Ukraine is being destroyed without justification and the world watches. Worse, NATO ignores its charter which is that an attack on one is an attack on all.
The facts are that NATO members are already under attack but just don’t want to admit it. Russia’s current slaughter of innocents has damaged Europe’s economies and will continue to do so as a deluge of its victims flee their homes and strain the continent’s social systems. But NATO has ignored attacks for years involving political corruption, economic infiltration, sabotage, poisonings, and cyber warfare. NATO is a facade and Putin knew that.
That’s why it was laughable when Putin claimed that NATO’s “expansion eastward” was an existential threat to Russia and justified his invasion of Ukraine. NATO’s weakness is why it now falls upon President Joe Biden this week to lead Europe and NATO by demanding they do some heavy lifting. This post-war organization, like the United Nations, must be repurposed or replaced.
“The wars of the past have prompted our predecessors to create institutions that should protect us from war, but they, unfortunately, don’t work,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We see it. You see it. So we need new ones, new institutions, new alliances.”
He suggested creating a coalition of peacekeeping countries, beyond NATO members, that would be willing to establish and enforce a humanitarian no-conflict zone inside Ukraine. Any Russian aggression against such a zone would trigger the deployment of NATO forces, which would easily outnumber Russia’s.
Europe should have mobilized tens of thousands of troops and weaponry on its eastern border right after the invasion, then doubled down on financial sanctions, banned Russian energy, and established firm red lines and deadlines for a Russian ceasefire and withdrawal of troops. This must happen now. And NATO and the European Union must also impose secondary sanctions on China or India or any others that help Putin work around sanctions.
It must immediately provide more anti-aircraft systems and drones to continue to stitch together a virtual no-fly zone against bombs and missiles. Finally, any agreements reached by NATO members this week must be locked in to avoid slippage by appeasers.
Foot-dragging by Germany and Italy and others must end, along with foolhardy notions that Putin might be removed or that he won’t do to Ukraine what he did to Syria and Chechnya or worse. Paradoxically, NATO’s timidity is the cause of this invasion — not because it threatened Russia — but because it never has. Instead, NATO has concentrated on hosting fancy cocktail-laced summits and organizing “war games” but has never engaged the enemy.
The U.S. holds the best cards but its Euro partners are cowardly
Zelenskyy laid it on the line with Europeans: “There are many expressions of solidarity with my country and its people. Refugees are received with warmth and hospitality. People around the world are sending donations of all kinds.
Europe and the U.S. have taken tangible steps that were unthinkable not long ago to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked and barbaric invasion. We are grateful for all this. But while you debate and develop sympathy, Ukraine is being destroyed. Russian planes are dropping bombs on our children and firing missiles into hospitals, schools, and factories. Where they face the resistance of Ukrainian fighting men and women, they double down with savagery and flatten city blocks—and the human beings in them.”
Putin realized a long time ago that NATO was run as a “gentlemen’s club” by bureaucrats who won’t take action, or make recommendations, without consensus. But that’s irrelevant during a war. If rules don’t permit NATO to give Ukraine planes, drones, and anti-aircraft systems, then members must cut deals with intermediaries or criminals to obtain and distribute whatever’s required.
If they cannot send airplanes, then they should disassemble them and ship them as spare parts. If their troops cannot go into Ukraine or Russia, then send special forces or mercenaries into sabotage and damage Putin’s military.
Instead, deference to bureaucrats and legalities or politicians on Putin’s payroll, and worrying about protocols while the carnage continues, has turned NATO into nothing more than an accomplice. If NATO cannot attack now, then when? Once Russia attacks Warsaw or Estonia or when it drops a nuke on Mariupol or another Ukrainian city?
NATO members must stop wasting oxygen on speculations as to what Putin’s red lines are but must determine what theirs will be — starting with a demand to stop killing and starving civilians — particularly now that Russia has turned Mariupol into the Auschwitz of the 21st century and made 10 million Ukrainians homeless.
Does NATO not realize that his reign of terror across Ukraine is designed to create and weaponize a humanitarian crisis involving millions of refugees to destabilize Europe? He did this by destroying Syria and tried to do it in Belarus last summer. This tactic is a major attack on NATO countries, a declaration of war that must be counterattacked immediately and forcefully.
Europe’s timidity and inaction are immoral. Zelenskyy's most pointed rebuke for not doing enough was toward Israel for refusing to send weapons or to criticize Russia for its invasion, apparently because Russia lets it attack Hezbollah in the Syrian territory it controls.
Zelenskyy, Jewish himself, reminded them of the similarity between Putin and Hitler’s genocide and rampage, then said profoundly: “Indifference kills. Calculations kill. It is possible to mediate between countries, but not between good and evil.”
NOTE: Diane Francis is a US-born Canadian journalist, author and editor-at-large for the National Post newspaper since 1998.She is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, specializing in Eurasia policy and political issues. Since 2021, she is publishing a Substack newsletter. Diane Francis is a Veteran columnist writes about power, money, tech, and corruption in America and the world at dianefrancis.substack.com.
NOTE: This commentary and analysis article by Diane Frances is distributed for information purposes only.