The Russia ConnectionNATO Has Warned Russia, but Will NATO Defend Ukraine?

By Teri Schultz

Published 2 December 2021

NATO warns Russia not to make any further moves against Ukraine. But NATO allies have been unable to formally agree on what the Russian military activity represents, much less how to respond to it.

Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned from the foreign ministers’ meeting in Riga.While acknowledging NATO has no mechanism for imposing sanctions, Stoltenberg emphasized that it is the most important transatlantic table for governments to coordinate policies they can enact unilaterally, as allies together “represent 50% of the world’s GDP.”

But despite Stoltenberg asserting that Russia “underestimated the resolve of NATO allies to impose sanctions and sustain sanctions after the illegal annexation of Crimeain 2014,” perhaps the alliance has overestimated the extent to which the measures taken then would serve as a deterrent to future aggression. After all, NATO is once more mired in debate about how to respond to a buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

Stoltenberg emphasized continuously that since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it does not warrant the same level of defense as an ally. Nevertheless, he said foreign ministers were discussing “economic sanctions, financial sanctions, political reactions” against Russia as well as other “readiness” initiatives to back Kyiv up.

Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks had no time for that. “I’m ashamed that there are only a few countries which in the last five years have been actually capable and willing to support Ukraine also militarily,” he told DW in an exclusive interview, “because this is a nation which is standing for its borders, for its freedoms.”

Playing the Kremlin’s Playbook
Those who wouldn’t, for example, sell military equipment to Ukraine believe they are preserving peace, which Pabriks disputes. “Actually we are playing according to the playbook of the Kremlin,” he added. “This is not a good thing. This is not bringing us closer to security and peace. We should support Ukraine.”

But NATO allies have been unable to formally agree on what the Russian military activity represents, much less how to respond to it. Assuming the worst-case scenario, Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) urged allies to get on the same page. “The Russian military is seriously preparing and planning such an invasion,” he told DW.