The situation between Russia and NATO remains tense in the dispute over Ukrainian sovereignty. But what exactly would it mean for Germany if Putin attacked Ukraine again like in 2014? It is still unclear what goals the Russian President Putin is pursuing with the deployment of the armed forces on Russia’s western border with Ukraine. Neither his speech at the Department of Defense meeting earlier this week nor his long press conference on December 23rd fully shed light on this. He is keeping all options open: Russia will, he said, „react harshly“ to steps seen as unfriendly – whatever that means – and act in accordance with its security interests. So it remains that an invasion of Ukraine cannot be ruled out. There is increasing evidence that the relevant skills – including logistics and medical units – will continue to be widely relocated. Even the short-term announcement of maneuvers to practice land grabbing does nothing to calm the situation. If the aim of developing the armed forces was to be able to negotiate on an equal footing with the USA, this was achieved in the second summit meeting with President Biden. As things stand today, it will not be possible to implement the subsequent goal of obtaining security guarantees from NATO as President Putin envisions. He is striving for an agreement between Russia and the NATO states on security zones. „Another NATO expansion to the east is unacceptable. What is wrong with that?“ President Putin asked rhetorically at his press conference, as if it were a matter of course that Russia would have a say in these areas. „We want to consolidate our security.“ To this end, the Russian Foreign Ministry had published two treaty proposals days earlier in which this is specified.
The first contract was supposed to be between the USA and Russia and contain security guarantees. What seems generally to be welcomed, however, actually breathes the spirit of Andrei Gromyko, who was Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union from 1957 to 1985: a great power policy of spheres of influence. Article 4 becomes concrete: Former states of the Soviet Union are not allowed to join NATO and the USA are not allowed to cooperate with them militarily. That means nothing else than the fact that they will be exposed to pressure from Russia in the future and cannot expect any support from the West. Article 6 goes further and wants to undermine NATO’s nuclear participation, i.e. strategically decouple the USA and Europe from one another. Both states, the USA and Russia, should in future only be allowed to station short- and medium-range missiles on their national territory. This would mean that the European NATO states would be left to their own devices and the security services of the USA for the European NATO states would be exposed to constant doubts. Gromyko would cheer. The Soviet Union has always pursued this goal of severing transatlantic relations, and Putin is acting in this tradition. It is revisionist imperialism that he is trying to implement
The second treaty is to be concluded between the NATO states and Russia. In this, Russia demands that no troops from other NATO members may be deployed in the Eastern European NATO countries that were not deployed there in 1997 – that is, years before accession. The point is now to decouple the security of the Eastern European states from that of the Western European states. The accession of other states to NATO is to be categorically excluded. The NATO countries should not be allowed to engage in military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus or Central Asia. The parties should be able to terminate the contract with 30 days‘ notice, which would enable Russia to deploy its own troops. At its last foreign ministerial meeting, NATO had already made a decision: there will be no policy of spheres of influence in Europe. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg reiterated this position after the Russian treaty proposals were published: „This idea that a great power like Russia can decide what smaller neighbors can or cannot do means reintroducing this notion of spheres of influence. This is in violation absolutely against everything that has ensured peace and stability in Europe since the end of the Cold War. “ The Russian treaty proposals, for example, do not refer to the 1990 Paris Charter – the document which in Europe expressed hope for a democratic, rule of law and nonviolent future like no other. This perspective no longer plays a role in Russia’s vision of Europe’s future.General ret. Klaus Naumann commented: ““If the US would sign this, they would betray Europe and hand over a free Europe to Russia.“
It is also a question what the USA and Europe would get in exchange. Would Russia agree to create a demilitarized zone in its West, some sort of structural non-aggressivness or would Putin reject this idea as it was an attack on Russian sovereignity which might legitimate in Europe, but not in Russia. What security guarentees would Putin give NATO, the USA and the West? Or will he wait till Trump is reeclected and make such a draft treaties deal with him as Trump doesn´t care too much about the EU and NATO, but mostly about China?
What can Germany contribute if Russia implements the threats and attacks Ukraine? The entire German policy towards Russia over the past twenty years would have failed, because, unlike the annexation of Crimea in 2014, when Chancellor Merkel reacted with a diplomacy of all-round appeasement in homeopathic doses, the Ampel-Coalition would not be able to withstand this. The arguments about the possible reactions are already too clear for that. The Foreign Minister and the Minister of Economic Affairs, i.e. the Green coalition partner, could not support a reaction that is only verbally hard and soft on the matter. The focus of the recent discussion on Nord Stream 2 would immediately draw the pipeline into consideration. The fact that Russia throttled and suspended gas deliveries through the Yamal pipeline was likely to have been aimed precisely at this. Otherwise, the federal government is acting as part of an alliance, for example by shortening the response time of the Very High Readiness Task Force (VJTF), a particularly rapid reaction force with 6,400 soldiers. It should now be ready for use in five days. The Bundeswehr will take over the lead in 2023. Its mission is to protect the NATO member states, but doesn’t go beyond that.Weapon delivieries to Ukraine to drag Russia in a quagmire and sort of East European Afghanistan could be the other alternative, however not unrisky.