Slippery Relations: NATO in The Ukraine War

Published March 9th, 2022 - 08:19 GMT
War in the Ukraine
A Ukrainian tank is pictured in the Lugansk region on 25 February 2022 (AFP)

NATO is raring to go, not to intervene directly on the side of the Ukrainians against the Russians, but to aid in other ways. Right now, the military alliance is helping by supplying Kiev with badly needed weapons.

This will provide the key to settling military scores of the war that is likely to continue for quite sometime. The course of the war is not likely to be slick and quick as it was originally thought. The Russian troops are doing a lot of damage with their missiles and dominant airpower but they are finding it not easy to take over a vast country.

They are meeting a lot of resistance on the battlefield, in different cities, around local airports, in port towns and military installations and facilities from the Ukraine military and its volunteers, thousands of ordinary people who are fighting with simple weapons and tools provided by the Ukraine authorities who are telling the people to take up arms and fight.

Today, this is creating a badly-needed momentum among the military forces, the people and the government spurned on by the Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. He has been pleading with NATO members to enter the war and help. He is addressing US president Joe Biden, speaking to the European Parliament and has recently addressed the British House of Commons through video. 

But the Atlantic alliance says it would stay on the sides regardless of how much it morally supports Ukraine and the rapport it has built with that country over the years because of the perilous dangers of the situation and its slippery-slope to Armageddon maybe.

Off course it may be argued that NATO and western leaders are deciding to stay on the sidelines because, at the outset of the war, Vladimir Putin warned them not to intervene because they would likely see something they would never have imagined or expected.

This was clearly interpreted to mean the use of nuclear weapons. Although that may have been a bluff and a too simplified an assessment because nobody wins in any nuclear exchange, NATO soon backed off and begun to call for a political negotiated settlement.

But such a position may have emboldened Putin to go for an outright, forthright, forward-looking strategy in Ukraine using the understatement the Ukraine adventure is a mere military operation. But if this is the case, Russia wouldn't be pounding Ukraine from the east, north, south and west and on cities on the beaches of the Black Sea and Azov Sea and much more. 

However, and in the same way, while seemingly treading on thin ice and not willing to rock the boat too much, NATO nevertheless decided not to stand with its hands behind its back and follow a different strategy and arm Ukraine and its government, although not to the liking of Zelensky who keeps urging for greater intervention but nevertheless better than being left in the wilderness. 

Notwithstanding this and in carefully calculated moves the leaders of the 27 country alliance soon felt it necessary to supply Ukraine with weapons to help it fight the Russians.

Hence 21 states are sending weapons to the Ukraine through Poland. Present members include the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Sweden - a non-NATO member - and many more are supplying the country with missiles, weapons, anti-tank batteries, guns, machine guns, rifles, pistols and in one case through the Americans with planes but there are conflicting reports about that.

Will such weapons help to defeat the Russians in the final analysis or are  these just a drop in the ocean. Furthermore when will they arrive? Don't they need time to filter to the battlefields. Meanwhile, and in theory the Russian war machine is still going strong, pounding Ukraine cities such as Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy, Kherson and Zhytomyr to name be a few.  Russian artillery are also striking ports, military infrastructure and airports in and around Kiev and want to beat the capital into submission.

But this is not happening despite the destruction. Kiev is still standing strong although subject to constant sirens and missile attacks but Russian soldiers and tanks are still fighting on the outskirts unable to enter because of logistics issues and supplies that is keeping them at bay. Strategists and onlookers also say that the Russians are meeting much and an unexpected resistance from the Ukrainians.

Although, initially it was thought local Ukraine forces will run out of armour and ammunition, the situation is continually being reassessed as the days of the war spike forward and as NATO suppliers are delivered into the country. With new ammunition, the resistance continues. Both sides are providing gains and losses accounts that are very difficult to verify and both are providing figures according to their view of the world. 

Those provided by the Ukraine side suggest that they have killed 12,000 troops from Feb 24 till March 8. This is clearly inflated; the Russians only acknowledge that less than 500 of their troops were killed in action. However  the  CIA estimates that between 2000 and 4000 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine. 

Further the military hardware is questionable. The number of Russian tanks destroyed by the Ukraine forces for instance registers from 56 tanks to 300 and the number is likely to go up. And this not to mention other armoury and artifacts taken out of action. The same is true for Russian destruction but since they are the "invaders" it is safe to say they are destroying much more.

Back to NATO however. A couple of things emerged in the second week of the military operation if that is an appropriate word to use. First it emerged that Washington was prepared to provide a safe passage for Zelensky out of the country but this was soon denied by Washington especially after the Ukraine president said he will not go and would rather die fighting with his people. 

Secondly, it emerged that NATO members are either exploring the possibility of a Ukraine government-in-exile in the event of the death of Zelensky, and already there is a search for an alternative leader to cushion a potential blow and to prevent Moscow from appointing its own 'yes' man in Kiev. There might be a long way before that stage is reached with open talks that the war could last till as long as June however. 

Its early days. Meanwhile the war is set to heighten because of the "ongoing" supplies to the Ukraine forces from the NATO countries, although its being suggested "fatigue" is setting in by Russian forces and it is being argued that their military operations is not as robust as when it started in the initial days of the war. 

Meanwhile Russian and Ukraine delegates are continuing to hold talks on the Ukraine-Belarus border of how to stop the war. Moscow says it can stop the war tomorrow but it needs iron-cast commitments from Kiev it would follow a neutral strategy from now on, will not seek to join NATO, recognizes Russia's sovereign claims on the Crimea and recognizes the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

But this maybe a Russian pipedream and so the ground battles may continue! 

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