A lot of Western governments – from the US to Germany – claimed that Ukraine should not lose and Russia should not win this war. However, the slow pace on the delivery of weapons may cast doubts on whether they take this very seriously.
Sanctions on the Russian defence industry to hamper their production are good and necessary. Russia is specifically vulnerable regarding certain chemical pre-products (to produce propellants as well as other special applications), industry robots and quality-control instruments, and Gear-boxes and transmissions (for all sorts of vehicles). But loopholes need to be closed and an effective monitoring mechanism created. Otherwise, Russia will continue to import key products under the disguise of civilian use, or using brass-plate companies in third countries to acquire these items illegally. Many of the G7 countries, Germany and Italy for example, have weak and compartmentalised intelligence services, they would need to reform them considerably to be able to truly implement such measures.
Other sanctions are rather symbolic. They rather reflect the Western policy preference to fight this war as an economic contest as opposed to a military one. But looking at things developing on the ground, the other way round would be better: the Russian economy could be stabilised by Moscow, arguably at a lower point but still. Economics is not Putin’s playground, and he will not have is geopolitical ambition tamed by economic setbacks. On the other hand, Russia’s military campaign proved to be much more fragile and weak than anticipated. Breaking its offensive capabilities by providing Kyiv with the tools to do so (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, air-defence) would be the cheaper solution. Also, the military is Putin’s playground and pet project, military defeat would cut further geopolitical ambitions short.
Expanding the NATO response force to 300.000 is a good thing on paper, as it would provide the overall strength to counter the Russian army. However, after February 24th we saw NATO only slowly and gradually increasing its military presence on the Eastern Flank, and at much slower pace than an activation of the then 40000 men NRF would have foreseen. Now formally the NRF was never activated, but one can also make the guess that if the NRF would have been ready at its intended form and numbers, it would have been. Low readiness and underfunding have caused low readiness. If there is no sustained, increased commitment from Western Europe to this, NATO may just over-announce like the EU did all along since the Helsinki headline goal.
For further ECFR analysis on Russia’s war in Ukraine please see here.
Source – ECFR – Email