NATO Has Acquired a New Lease on Life

There are three possible outcomes for the future development of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Ukraine forces Russia back, in effect defeating Russia.  This is unlikely, but if it were to happen, it would have catastrophic consequences for Russia, perhaps even leading to its break up.  Russia conquers Ukraine.  This also seems unlikely, but if it were to happen, it would increase Russia’s ambitions.  Ukraine and Russia reach a standoff, where neither side wins. A prolonged, low level of warfare would result, focused on the eastern areas (“Donbas”) and the Black Sea coast of Ukraine. This could also lead to instability in Russia because it would be utterly at odds with Russian propaganda.

I would agree with observers who say that Putin’s intention is to establish a “little Soviet Union” centered in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, except that the Central Asian nations would likely be targets for incorporation. But, the abject performance of the Russian military means that for now, there is little hopes that Putin will ever see his ambitions fulfilled.

In a real sense by attacking Ukraine, Putin attacked Europe. As a result, the EU has closed ranks and NATO has presented a revived and united front. The EU was damaged to some extent by Brexit. This loss may make new members, such as Georgia, appealing. Similarly, with NATO, new members, Sweden, Finland perhaps Moldova, might be welcome because they would complete a western wall against Russia. If there are natural limits to the size of the EU and of NATO, we will learn them soon.

NATO has acquired a new lease on life. It will stand as the armed counterweight to Russian ambitions for the foreseeable future. Any alliance has factors that limit its membership and extent. If Russia were to threaten the Central Asian states, would NATO offer them membership as well? Membership requires substantial shifts in armament and training, and these might force limits on NATO’s size.

Some scholars argue that the Russia-Ukraine conflict could fundamentally influence the international order. I would agree with such scholars, that a new world alignment is emerging regardless of how the war ends. It will be China + Russia on one side and the US + Europe on the other, with the rest of the nations, either joining one or the other side or seeking neutrality.  Resource needs and trade, particularly with China, may give this alignment some compromises and flexibility, but Russia will probably benefit the least from such limited openness as might emerge.

I think other countries can learn from the Russia-Ukraine conflict what power is.  In this war we are seeing two forms of power.  One that is older and more like mid-twentieth century heavy armament, (including nukes), that is, Russian arms, and another that is new, and consists of small but deadly instruments by the thousands for killing and destroying.

Mainstream media clearly has chosen the Ukrainian side, but with moral justification for doing so. Still, they try to make the horror of war comprehensible, such as showing destruction, or high lighting heroism. The problem here for Russia is that Putin’s motive for attacking Ukraine is based upon a personal obsession. This, plus the poor performance of the Russian military, makes reporting the Russian side virtually impossible. It becomes simply repeating propaganda of the most blatant sort.

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