In the Ukraine Crisis, the West Emerges Without a Policy

President Biden continues with his policy of withdrawal, seemingly telling Russia of his unwillingness to intervene or even to talk.

Women gather to mark a Day of Unity at Odessa, Ukraine, February 16, 2022. AP/Emilio Morenatti

Even without a Russian invasion, Ukraine is becoming a serious international problem. I want to deal with some secondary aspects of the quagmire. Let’s start with our side of the equation, the West. 

On the one hand we have Europe, divided into roughly three sides. Germany and France are the two largest countries of the union and their attitude toward the problem is heavily conditioned by their gas imports from the Russian federation. They have, as a result, a rather mollified position with the condemnation of President Putin’s behavior. 

The other members of the E.U. have taken a variety of positions in condemning Russia’s behavior. This means that the E.U. does not have a foreign policy and is therefore nonexistent in the Ukrainian case. Finally, there is the U.K., which is pursuing a clear course of action. Prime Minister Johnson’s government is supporting Ukraine with the sale of weapons and other military equipment to the Ukrainian army.

Finally, President Biden continues with his policy of withdrawal, seemingly telling Russia of his unwillingness to intervene or even to talk. This removes from the scene the only country that, with adequate leadership, would have the military power to stop any aggressive action of Mr. Putin. As a result the West does not have a policy at all.

As far as Russia is concerned, it’s plain that she has no clear intention to invade Ukraine. She could do so only if the lack of a clear policy in the West forces her to do so. Moscow has the military power that would make the invasion easy to accomplish. This does not mean that is what she will do. Recent reports say that Russia has pulled back some of her forces.

To evaluate the entire question, we should start by considering the dramatic change in the global scenario after the Soviet Union collapsed. Before that, the big problem in the world was defense, the containment of Russia’s aggressive intentions. Nato was created as a defense alliance; it was exclusive, characterized by the country against which it was aimed. 

We no longer have a problem of defense; our problem is terrorism and the need of security. Security organizations, unlike defense alliances, are inclusive — meaning, the larger the number of countries, the more effective they are.

It is in our interest, therefore, to have Russia cooperate with us in combating terrorism. The logic is for Presidents Putin and Biden to try to avoid confrontations that would impede mutual cooperation in the fight against terror. This does not mean that we have to remain passive if the Russian federation embarks in aggression against other countries.

It means that we should welcome actions aimed at correcting Russian misbehavior. President Biden’s choice to withdraw military forces from the scene of potential aggression is not justified by the need to maintain a good relationship with Russia. It is  hard to understand.  

The situation in Ukraine is in such rapid evolution that detailed analysis is nigh impossible. In my opinion, however, the facts mentioned before remain valid. We should keep them in mind in looking at the quagmire we face.


Mr. Martino, a former minister of defense and of foreign affairs of Italy, is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.

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