GRAY ZONE – Despite European fantasies that somehow the European Union (EU) is the reason for 70 years of relative peace in Europe, the transatlantic US-European military alliance – NATO – has been the real bulwark of peace and stability. And today, NATO has to stand up to the new and growing Russian threat.
The West made two fundamental mistakes in the years since Russia’s new flag was first raised over the Kremlin. In an understandable rush to add to NATO states escaping the defunct Warsaw Pact and resuming their rightful places in the West, America, in particular, failed to delineate where the expansion would end. One can debate where that endpoint should be, but by failing to decide the question explicitly, we created a “grey zone,” an ambiguity Russia is now exploiting. Today, we and grey-zone nations like Ukraine, are paying the price.
This Gray Zone is now the center of the NATO-RUSSIA conflict. Bolton adds:
Unfortunately, NATO’s inadequate end-state planning and EU delusions have hindered developing a coherent strategy against a resurgent Russia. The Kremlin has suffered no such disability and now demands multiple security guarantees from NATO and the United States, embracing not just Eastern Europe, the current crisis epicenter, but also the Central Asian republics. Moscow wants an agreement that NATO to not admit Ukraine or other non-members into the alliance; not deploy “offensive weapons” in countries (NATO members or not) adjacent to Russia; and not conduct military exercises near Russia’s borders above brigade levels. China has essentially endorsed Russia’s demand.
President Biden’s perceived weakness is not boding well for any agreements with Putin as he calculates how much he can win from his current self-generated crisis.
So, what should NATO do now?
Bolton argues that:
… NATO must finally decide which grey-zone countries it is prepared to admit, and which it isn’t. NATO should also reaffirm that all former republics, in Central Asia (since Russia has dragged them into the discussion) as well as Europe and the Caucasus, must be free to make their own decisions about their allegiances. While they decide, NATO should give Russia a general “hands-off” notice regarding them all.
Additional allied weapons should immediately be surged into Ukraine, and nearby NATO members as Bill Schneider has suggested. U.S. and other NATO countries should increase troop rotations into Ukraine for joint training and exercising, not to engage in combat, but so Russian generals can contemplate the karma of being ordered to invade Ukraine in close proximity to new NATO deployments. Western ministers of defense and their joint staffs’ chairmen should be converging on Kyiv, Chisinau, Tbilisi, and even Minsk for consultations.
NATO has been history’s strongest defensive alliance. Neither the USSR nor Russia has ever dared confront it directly, which means its deterrent capabilities are as tested and proven as anyone could conceive. With this record and the enormous internal weaknesses of Russia in mind, this is no time for Washington, let alone the great capitals of Europe, to fear putting NATO front and center.