Putin’s NATO mess – POLITICO

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Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO, is chairman of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and host of the weekly “World Review with Ivo Daalder” podcast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had high hopes for the invasion of his western neighbor earlier this year – he would bring all of Ukraine back into Russian fold; he would extend the influence of Russia throughout Eastern and Central Europe; it was going to fracture, if not force, the collapse of NATO.

In short, the Russian president would regain everything Russia had lost in the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reverse what he considered “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”.

But Putin’s hopes have been brutally dashed and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may well turn out to be the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 21st century, at least as far as Russia is concerned.

Far from taking over Ukraine in a matter of weeks, Russia is now clearly on the defensive. Ukraine took over more than 60,000 square kilometers of territory that Russia had occupied in the first weeks of the invasion. Russian soldiers are fleeing, their commanders are disorganized and the army is now supplied from stocks of ammunition sold by North Korea.

The most important strategic failure, however, is the decline of Russian influence across Europe and the rebirth of transatlantic solidarity through a strengthened and more unified NATO, which Putin himself unwittingly encouraged.

Far from fracturing, NATO and the West as a whole responded to the war with remarkable unity of effort. Russia is now the most sanctioned country in the world. And while Moscow may still hope to exploit Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as a weapon to force appeasement, there are growing indications that alternative sources of supply and conservation measures will the continent to weather all but the harshest winters.

Meanwhile, attitudes towards Russia have changed dramatically, underpinning strong and unified opposition to Moscow and its policies. This shift is perhaps most notable in the United States, where a new survey released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows strong support for Europe and NATO.

Despite all the rhetoric in Washington and elsewhere about an American pivot to Asia, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has driven Americans back to Europe. When asked which region was most important to the future of US military security, 50% said Europe, compared to 21% for Asia and 19% for the Middle East. Just two years ago, just 16% of Americans saw Europe as most important to US security, compared to 61% for the Middle East.

The importance of Europe for the Americans is also underlined by their vision of NATO. In fact, the American public is now more committed to the Atlantic Alliance than at any time since our poll began nearly 50 years ago. Four in five Americans now want to maintain (62%) or increase (19%) the United States’ commitment to NATO. And while Democrats are the most engaged (90%), three-quarters of Republicans and independents are too.

Since the beginning of this year, the administration of US President Joe Biden has significantly increased its commitment to NATO, deploying approximately 25% more troops, aircraft, mechanized vehicles and warships, many far to ballast.

Americans strongly support such a long-term presence in Europe, with two in three supporting long-term bases in Germany (68%), the Baltic States (65%) and Poland (62%). In the case of Germany and Poland, these figures have increased by almost 60% compared to ten years ago.

Equally important is the fact that US support for NATO enlargement is stronger than ever. This, despite – or perhaps even because of – Moscow blaming NATO’s decision to bring Central and Eastern European countries back into its fold for instability in Europe, as well as for its invasion of Ukraine. .

Moscow’s actions have even convinced Finland and Sweden to abandon their century-old neutrality pledges and apply to join NATO, with Alliance leaders inviting the two countries to join NATO last June, and with the US Senate voting 95 to 1 to approve their membership last month.

Three-quarters of Americans polled support Finland and Sweden joining NATO, committing the United States to defend countries that, in Finland’s case, share a 1,400-meter land border. kilometers with Russia. Most remarkably, 73% of Americans would support Ukraine joining NATO, and a startling four in 10 favor sending US troops to defend Ukraine today – even though Biden and NATO leaders have specifically ruled out this possibility.

With US support for NATO and European security at historic levels, many might wonder how sustainable that support will be in the longer term. Few NATO members have forgotten the histrionics under the previous administration during which former President Donald Trump repeatedly lambasted the Alliance, even threatening to pull the United States from NATO.

Of course, no one knows what might happen in 2024, let alone whether Trump should be re-elected. But public opinion tends to be much less fickle than many realize. Indeed, support for NATO among Americans has steadily increased over the past decade, but less so among Republicans. It’s one of the few issues on which large majorities on both sides of the aisle can agree — not just now, but also when Trump was in office.

Russia’s actions have only cemented American support for NATO. This helped to strengthen and unify the military alliance itself – far from the result Putin sought.



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