Standing Up to Putin

The accumulation of conflicts and crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East present new challenges for NATO and the European Union. Both institutions need to clarify their objectives, beginning by helping Ukraine stand up to Russia's Vladimir Putin and join the community of democratic, liberal, and prosperous countries.

WARSAW – The accumulation of conflicts and crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East poses new challenges for NATO and the European Union. If these challenges are to be met, both institutions – bastions of Western values and security – will have to clarify their objectives and adjust the way they operate. Should they fail to do so, the West’s two greatest political achievements of the postwar era may begin to unravel.

That NATO and the EU may lack the will to change is indicated by the fact that, even after Russian troops invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, only part of the West was ready to admit that President Vladimir Putin was intent on restoring Russia as an aggressive global power. It took others months to accept the reality that Putin’s willingness to use force to change national borders in Europe could not go unchallenged.

Of course, there still has been no direct Russian attack on a NATO member state. But the state of turmoil just beyond the Alliance’s eastern border has created a reasonable fear in NATO’s Baltic member countries, as well as in Romania and Poland, about whether or not the Alliance would actually stand with them should they be threatened.

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