Analysis-Best supporting actor? NATO in secondary role if Russia invades Ukraine


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO could be more likely to reinforce its troop presence in the Black Sea and the Baltics whereas warding off cyberattacks if Russia had been to invade Ukraine, diplomats and former officers mentioned.

But with the Western navy alliance beneath no treaty obligation to defend Ukraine, which isn’t a NATO member, among the hardest choices may fall on the European Union.

They embrace the right way to hit Moscow with any new financial sanctions, the fallout from any scarcity of Russian pure fuel to Europe and taking in refugees fleeing struggle.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has mentioned that diplomacy final week over legally binding safety calls for had come to a “useless finish”. Envoys and consultants are divided over whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine.

The Kremlin has massed 100,000 troops close to Ukraine’s borders, a buildup that the West says is preparation for a struggle to cease Ukraine ever becoming a member of NATO. Russia denies planning an invasion.

NATO is already intensifying the technique it has employed since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, with extra defensive navy planning, modernising deterrents, supporting Ukraine with cyberwarfare groups and looking for dialogue with Moscow.

As there’s a threat of any battle spilling over into NATO territory across the Black Sea, the alliance faces the dilemma of how far more to arrange and the right way to assist Kyiv.

Even although NATO agreed at a summit in Bucharest in 2008 that Ukraine would sooner or later grow to be a NATO member, the alliance isn’t certain by its founding treaty to defend Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden has dominated out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to struggle Russian troopers.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg mentioned on Nov. 30: “It is necessary to tell apart between NATO allies and companion Ukraine … Ukraine is a companion, a extremely valued companion.”

Two NATO diplomats mentioned Western steps to assist Ukraine may vary from extra U.S. weaponry and drones for the Ukrainian armed forces to intensified coaching of Ukrainian forces – particularly in methods to react to any Russian missile assaults. Britain has begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons.

Stoltenberg mentioned the Western navy alliance would signal an settlement on nearer cybersecurity cooperation with Kyiv in the approaching days, with out giving extra particulars, after cyberattacks on Ukrainian authorities web sites final week.


Hans-Lothar Domroese, a retired German normal who led one of many highest NATO instructions till 2016, mentioned that if Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO would “elevate the alert ranges.”

“NATO may reinforce the japanese entrance, sending larger navy items to Poland and the Baltic states, one thing NATO has dominated out up to now. NATO may also base troops in south-eastern Europe,” he informed Reuters.

That would nonetheless be in defence of NATO territory, however would ship a message of resolve to Russia.

Since 2014, NATO has prioritised reinforcing the Baltics, and has deployed 4 multinational battalion-size battlegroups led by Canada, Germany, Britain and the United States in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

Estonia’s prime minister informed Reuters final week that the Baltic states had been speaking to allies about rising navy deployments on their soil, and Stoltenberg has mentioned any Russian assault on Ukraine would spur a choice.

Denmark agreed final week to ship 4 extra F-16 warplanes to Lithuania and a frigate to assist patrol the Baltic Sea.

The troops function a “journey wire” for NATO’s 40,000-strong response pressure to come back in rapidly and convey extra U.S. troops and weapons from throughout the Atlantic.


Retired U.S. General Ben Hodges, who commanded U.S. military forces in Europe from 2014 till 2017, mentioned NATO allies ought to put together for broader penalties from any Russian invasion of Ukraine. He warned that the militarised Crimea peninsula has grow to be Russia’s “unsinkable plane provider”.

“I’d count on that if there’s a new offensive on a major scale, there’s a likelihood of a spillover, whether or not at sea, in the air, in cyber,” Hodges informed Reuters.

“If there’s a new offensive, then we now have three NATO allies in the Black Sea area: Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey … We must be taking all steps for our collective defence.”

The two NATO diplomats mentioned allied defence ministers had been probably subsequent month to debate sending extra forces to NATO’s multinational division headquarters in Romania. Although operational since 2017, it stays solely a land command, with out rapid air, maritime or particular forces.

Hodges mentioned a extra substantial operational centre would come with extra naval and air workout routines, intelligence sharing, higher monitoring of Russian submarines and industrial port visits to Crimea, and in the end higher preparation for battle.

Romania has pushed for a much bigger NATO naval presence on the Black Sea, however its neighbour Bulgaria is cautious of scary Russia. The involvement of Turkey, a member of NATO however not of the EU, could be essential.

(Editing by John Chalmers and Timothy Heritage)

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