home Europe, NATO Guest Dispatch: Mark Gage on the Situation in the Ukraine, NATO Needs to Step Up

Guest Dispatch: Mark Gage on the Situation in the Ukraine, NATO Needs to Step Up

The following Guest Dispatch is from Mark Gage, a friend of ours, as well as a professional colleague with an impressive career in public service. Among his many other accomplishments, Mark worked as Senior Professional Staff Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and, prior to that, as Senior Advisor at the Department of State on Eurasian Affairs.  Thank you Mark for the contribution to the Dispatches. We look forward to many more.

By Mark Gage

Even in the best of times of allied cooperation during the Cold War, it was most often difficult to persuade our NATO European allies to stand up to aggression or threats in a forceful way.

Unfortunately, the present reluctance by our major NATO allies to join in enacting real and strong sanctions on Russia, until Putin withdraws his invading troops from Ukraine and ends his very active subversive activities in other parts of Ukraine, demonstrates that the default position of our allies is, as in past, to avoid unpleasant or inconvenient actions and to leave it to the US to bear the costs of providing both leadership and their defense.

By failing to join us in this absolutely necessary effort at this time, our allies in London, Paris and Berlin are laying the groundwork for a future and much more dangerous conflict with Russia. Left unchecked, Putin’s gaze will soon and eagerly shift from his success in the Ukraine to an insistence on ‘defending’ ethnic Russian minorities in the Baltic countries (which the US is committed to go to war to defend, as NATO allies, without hesitation).

We are also condemning Ukraine to, at best, a future as a divided state unable to move forward in consolidating its democracy and economy (as corrupt and puppet regimes are established by Putin on parts of its territory), and, at worst, an outright, vicious and long war within Ukraine, as ethnic cleansing begins and the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty becomes a battle cry for Ukrainians.

The actions of our allies now will define whether America can afford to stay in the NATO Alliance. We have seen continuing and major defense budget cuts by our allies for two decades now, while the US has continued to borrow more and more to maintain its defense and station troops in Europe to defend our allies.

We have seen European militaries, that now lack crucial combat, intelligence, logistical and transport capabilities, reliant on US military support to conduct operations in Kosovo, Libya and Mali. As the US considers the rise of China in what is its Pacific backyard, it cannot afford to rely on allies in Europe that are only willing to offload their defense costs and problems on the US and, in fact, push off aggression and threats in their backyard to a future time, when it will fall on the US to confront major and extremely dangerous confrontation with Russia.

Their actions now will define them as either allies or moochers. Phony settlements in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (such as monitors and mediation, while his ‘not Russian’ Russian troops proceed to hive off parts of Ukraine) will not meet the need to prevent future aggression or the right to Ukrainians to live in a peaceful, democratic state.

At a time of such serious fiscal challenge here at home, we can no longer afford such free-loading or refusal to accept their responsibilites by our allies. It is time to leave NATO if they will not do the heavy lifting to preserve the peace before it becomes too late.

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