The announcement that NATO will now increase its military presence in the vicinity of Ukraine is being defended by NATO’s secretary general as a move to enhance “defense, deterrence, and de-escalation.”
This build-up of NATO troops, military aircraft and ships along Europe’s eastern border seems more likely to provoke the Russians and increase tension in the region than to deter Putin or de-escalate the armed stand-off in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government’s attempt to take control back from the armed militants in eastern Ukraine by sending a force of 21 armored vehicles accompanied by armed soldiers ended in the Ukrainian soldiers surrendering weapons and even some armored vehicles. Crowds blocked their way, and the soldiers sensibly refused to fire on their fellow Ukrainians.
The government and people of Ukraine have only two viable options to deal with Russia’s aggression: patient diplomacy and nonviolent resistance. Russia appears to be trying to provoke a civil war, perhaps as an excuse to invade Ukraine. To prevent or delay a Russian invasion, Ukraine would do well not to respond militarily, and so far has shown considerable restraint.
NATO can rattle its sabers from the sidelines and talk tough, but to what end? The more military might we amass near Ukraine, the more possible and tempting it will be (despite our stated intentions to avoid it) to engage Russia militarily should Putin decide to send troops across the border into Ukraine and the Ukrainian government plead for military assistance.
Economic sanctions, diplomacy, nonviolent resistance and patience are still, it seems to me, the best options for NATO and Ukraine.