The War in Ukraine

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The War in Ukraine
NATO’s Challenge

  Feben Itty

About the Author

Feben Itty a postgraduate scholar at Madras Christian College. The comment is published as an outcome of the War in Ukraine workshop held on 05 August in collaboration with University of Madras and India-Office KAS Office, New Delhi. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the world has been divided into three like cold war times. Those in favor of Ukraine, Russia, and the neutral countries. The NATO group being one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine, but in the Vilnius Summit held in July NATO is yet to reach consensus to grant Ukraine the membership status. Till now NATO has supported 500 million euros to Ukraine along with fuel, and medical supplies. NATO also has supplied weapons and ammunition for the self-defense of Ukraine, even now many of the member countries are hosting refugees from Ukraine. The recent summit also approved new spending goals of increasing the defense budget to minimum of two per cent of the GDP for member countries and assured to provide long-term support to Ukraine. Yet, the main issue overshadows over Ukraine's membership into NATO.

First, Ukraine’s determination to become part of NATO. Since the USSR disintegration, Ukraine has been trying to attain NATO due to the fear being invaded. In 1997 NATO established a Ukraine-NATO commission, to provide a platform to discuss Ukraine’s security concerns and to bridge relations without NATO membership. The major reason for this membership is to get full confidence that Russia will not make another invasion. 

Second, Russia objection to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO. After the disintegration of the USSR, the world turned into a unipolar world. Russia claims that President Gorbachev was promised by the US that NATO would not move towards the east. But the situation has gone the opposite, as many countries joined NATO, such as the Baltic Republics, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. Which triggered Russia. NATO's expansion towards the east has made tensions for Russia and in the case of Ukraine it is much more important. Ukraine is one the most important strategic points in Eastern Europe, it is the second largest country in Europe, and it has access to the Black Sea, and its borders are connected to Russia to the east. These elements are making Russia go against Ukraine in the matter of NATO membership. Recently Finland has joined the alliance but then also that is not triggering Russia because for Russia, Ukraine is more than a strategic point. Like Ukraine was part of Soviet and presently there are many old Soviet countries which are in the eastern European area. That is also triggering Russia to go against Ukraine joining NATO. In other words, in the Russia’s dimension it is also having an identity crisis.

Third, NATO’s expansion in the Baltic and northern Europe.  The Alliance was formed with the intention of collective security just after the second world war in 1949. In other words, the alliance was formed in the beginning era of the cold war with twelve member countries and the present status is 31 countries. The first expansion of the alliance in 1952, NATO gave admission to Greece and Turkey which itself pointed out the intention of the Western powers to grow their influence into the East. Later the alliance increased the number of members in the alliance. After the collapse of the USSR, the alliance made significant Penetration into the Baltic and into the East European regions. Now the alliance has 31 members and a dozen countries are waiting and willing to join the alliance including Ukraine. NATO is expanding. It is a fact but now it is in a state of pause due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. NATO is not only moving east they are encircling the whole Russia. 

Fourth, NATO as a platform of peace diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine. NATO is one of the main actors in this conflict but at the same time, they had not made any initiatives for peace talks or diplomatic discussions. Due to the absence of the initiative war is slowly escalating into a conflict. The conflict started around 500 days ago if NATO initiates a dialogue with Russia, then ’NATO can create platforms for both countries to make peace talks and agreements.

Fifth, CSTO is not like NATO. Just like NATO was formed in 1949 under the leadership of the US and the West, there was the Warsaw Pact under the leadership of the USSR. The Warsaw Pact came into existence in 1955. This mutual defense had eight members and with the fall of the USSR, this alliance was broken. After the disintegration of the USSR Russia came as the substitute for all relations and as a substitute for Warsaw a new alliance was formed under the leadership of Russia and it was called Collective Security Treaty Organization In 2002, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin established this new organization is seen as an attempt to form a similar organization like NATO. Presently this alliance has six member States along with one observer State, all of which are from central and western Asia.
NATO is giving support for Ukraine in all forms but CSTO is not that much cooperative with Russia in the issue with Ukraine. The recent reports and news clearly say that CSTO is in a stage of inside conflict or even in a situation of collapse. NATO can make diplomatic relations with CSTO member countries to make a joint diplomatic move for creating peace in this region.

NATO is one of the main actors in this conflict between Russia and Ukraine and presently NATO is supporting Ukraine in different fields and areas. After the inclusion of Finland, NATO has turned strategically more powerful in that region. This all is making NATO more responsible to protect and safeguard the population in that area. 

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