Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

Ukraine in the geopolitical triangle Russia - NATO and the United States


In the first half of January, a series of meetings aimed at resolving the crisis caused by Russia's large-scale deployment of armed forces around Ukraine, as well as the formation of a new security architecture on the European continent were held. The four days from 10 to 13 January of the new 2022 were the most intense. Thus, on January 10 in Geneva, a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman discussed Russia's demands for «security guarantees» with a Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The Russia-NATO Council met in Brussels on 12 January. The next day, January 13, a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was held in Vienna.

After the talks, the United States and NATO expressed readiness to continue dialogue with Russia on a number of strategically important issues, but rejected Vladimir Putin's ultimatums that violate international treaties and affect the right of sovereign states to determine their own policies. This applies to the requirements for non-enlargement of NATO, the presence of the bloc's troops on its eastern flank, military cooperation between Members and between NATO and Partner countries.

At a press conference following the Russia-NATO Council meeting, Jens Stoltenberg was quite nervous, which indicated the intensity of negotiations with the Russian side. The Secretary General harshly responded to Russia's historical manipulations and narratives which Kremlin uses in attempt to justify a possible full-scale invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, speaking about the Alliance's future strategy on the eastern flank, Stoltenberg was more restrained and less decisive. Negotiations, which were almost hopeless from the very beginning, ended in vain. Neither side backed away from its principled position, confirming the assertion that it is impossible to reach an agreement when one of the parties speaks in the language of ultimatums.

Biden-Sullivan complaisant policy, characterized by the intention of the current US administration to build a predictable dialogue with Russia and not to provoke Vladimir Putin, has failed. This was clear even before the January talks. At the end of December, a number of American experts, including former diplomats and military, appealed to Joseph Biden to change the approach to resolving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The 25 signatories include the names of Kurt Walker, John Herbst, Michael McFaul and William Taylor. The letter emphasizes that Russia is laying the groundwork for launching a large-scale conventional attack on Ukraine, although the United States and NATO have expressed their willingness to sit down and discuss the Kremlin's problems. Therefore, experts called on the American president to provide military assistance to Ukraine now, even before the start of the Russian invasion, in order to influence the calculation of the Russian command. Such assistance might include additional Javelin anti-armor missiles and Q36 counter-battery radar systems as well as Stinger and other anti-aircraft missiles. In addition, it is proposed to increase NATO presence in Eastern European countries.[1]

According to Politico, at the end of December 2021, the Joe Biden administration authorized an additional $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine. The assistance was as part of President drawdown authority, which empowers him to have the secretary of State ask the secretary of Defense to deliver items from existing Pentagon stock to a country in peril.[2] According to Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanyshina, the Ukrainian leadership understands that NATO states will not fight for Ukraine, so the state needs military support.

However, there are still factors that hinder the process of military support for Ukraine. One such aspect is the internal political processes within NATO member states. The advantage and disadvantage of democracies is the democratic process, which includes political bargaining between different political groups, the bureaucracy, which slows down the decision-making process, and also the accountability of government to society. Greater involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict could hit the ratings of some governments, which is also taken into account when shaping policy towards Russia. For example, in the United States of America, at the expert level, there is a discussion about the advisability of greater support for Ukraine against Russia, the priority of the Asia-Pacific direction and confrontation with China, and also about the fear of war with Russia. After putting forward Russian demands not only regarding Ukraine, but also the Baltic States and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in particular NATO members, in this discussion, however, the scales tilt more in favor of supporters of Ukraine.

At the same time, in Germany, the government has not yet dared to supply Ukraine with military aid. Germany is avoiding security cooperation with Ukraine and is trying not to damage relations with Russia, even amid the current escalation. The country still does not abandon the geopolitical Russian-German project «North Stream – 2», which undermines the security of Eastern European countries. It is indicative the future of German-American relations and transatlantic relations in general made conditional on US actions regarding Nord Stream 2. Moreover, Angela Merkel last year blocked the supply of military aid to Ukraine through NATO. According to Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk, Germany is more ready to support Ukraine's accession to the EU than to NATO. Given Germany's role in the EU, the ambassador stressed the need for a «Berlin Plan» for Ukraine's accession to the European Union. Over the past month, European high-ranking officials have been increasingly talking about Ukraine's security problem as a security problem for the whole of Europe. Thus, we can talk about some progress in the field of European integration. However, in the security dimension, amid the military-political crisis, after unsuccessful negotiations between the United States, NATO and Russia, the situation around the question of preservation of Ukraine's territorial integrity, is deteriorating. Germany, which is supposed to play a key role in preserving Europe's security architecture, is contributing to its destruction with its ambiguous policy toward Russia.

According to Nigel Gould-Davis, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), great power revisionism is incompatible with the principle of sovereign equality that underpins international order, and threatens the security of other states.[3] The demands put forward by the Kremlin are allegedly dictated by a threat to national security. However, until 2014, NATO enlargement was purely political. The North Atlantic Alliance had not deployed multinational contingents in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, it was Russia's policy that led to the emergence of NATO forces near Russia's borders. A full-scale offensive against Ukraine is likely to lead to further Alliance enlargement and the accession of Sweden and Finland. Russia has violated the INF Treaty, the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter, the Budapest Memorandum as well as 407 bilateral and 80 international agreements with Ukraine.[4] Now, under contrived pretexts, the Russian Federation claims that Ukraine poses a threat to its national security and offers to form a new system in Europe, effectively dividing the continent into spheres of influence.

The policy of appeasement towards Putin does not work, just as it has not historically worked towards other dictators. Already now, the United States and European countries should strengthen military support for Ukraine. At the same time, there is a danger that the Joe Biden administration will try to resolve the conflict created by Russia at the expense of Ukraine. Although the official position of the United States is to categorically reject the option of dividing the continent into spheres of influence, the current US administration still considers China a priority threat. The events in Kazakhstan have shown that the United States is not ready to oppose Russia in Central Asia, despite loud statements about the intention to lead the fight of democratic world against the authoritarian one. Therefore, there is a danger that Joe Biden will try to avoid involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and, together with Germany and France, force Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements, since the government of the United States of America understands that the current escalation around Ukraine is not caused by NATO expansion, but by the Kremlin's gradual loss of ability to influence Ukraine.