With the eyes of the world glued to Ukraine in shock and awe, there is one thing that lingers in the back of many of our minds, the N-word: Nuclear.
Politicians and commentators alike have opined that US or NATO troops directly involved in Ukraine would trigger nuclear war. It certainly could. Yet with this said, we still should send troops into Ukraine despite it being a non-NATO ally.
Fear of nuclear provocation may be what made President Joe Biden promise not to send US troops into Ukraine. “Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict,” Biden said. “Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the east.”
Putin has even ordered his nuclear deterrent forces to be on “high alert,” and hinted at such in his infamous televised address early on, reminding us of Russia’s nuclear capabilities – warning in the case of an allied military operation “that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”
To which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian retorted during a press conference, “Putin must also understand that the [NATO] alliance is a nuclear alliance.”
As horrifying as the belligerent and unprovoked invasion by Russia into Ukraine is, nuclear war would certainly be far worse. However, there are several things that can be done to further support the Ukrainian resistance beyond just sanctions. And yes, it does involve more direct military support.
NATO ALLIES like Germany have already taken the initiative by sending 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. This was in addition to already suspending the Nord Stream 2, the pipeline used for receiving Russian gas, no mere sacrifice. After all, over 50 percent of Germany’s gas comes from Russia.
But there is even more that can be done. The first is a no-fly zone. Yes, such a move could provoke war with Russia, but NATO capabilities are far stronger than Russia’s and Putin knows it.
Another important move would be to send in troops – not to directly engage with Russian forces but to create something of a military pipeline coming out of Poland providing intelligence, medical support, and other supplies.
This could also establish a NATO enclave within Ukraine. From there, the ball would be in Russia’s court if they want to advance on NATO forces and further escalate the crisis.
Some skeptics in government have argued for a more isolationist, non-interventionist approach toward the current conflict.
Some have even gone further to praise Putin, like former President Trump calling him a “genius.” Russian state media has also shown comments lauding Putin made by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
However, this conflict in Ukraine is like most major conflicts, not solely confined to its borders.As closed off, erratic, and isolated as reports seem to indicate that Putin is, he may be very well aware of the hard lessons learned from the Syrian civil war.
From that conflict, approximately 13.5 million people were forcibly displaced. That displacement poured into Western Europe, prompting years of political unrest, the largest rise in right-wing sentiment since World War II, and was even the leading motivation behind Brexit. Massive destabilization could just be what Putin is hoping for, especially when it is hitting the democratic West the hardest.
Yes, all-out war in today’s day and age is the most frightening thing we have faced as a species, and this is what Putin is counting on for intimidation. Just as Winston Churchill stood in defiance of Adolf Hitler when everyone looked to pacify the Fuhrer, in these trying times are we to be Churchill or Neville Chamberlain?
The writer is a journalist who lived in the Middle East for six years, including Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan. He has a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Tel Aviv University.