In The Media

A two-pronged strategy for NATO’s dealings with Russia

by Elinor Sloan

The Globe and Mail
June 24, 2015

The U.S. decision to send tanks and armoured vehicles to Europe is the latest in a number of important moves the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is making to respond to Russian aggression. But it is difficult to see where all the activity will lead, except perhaps to unwanted military escalation. What is the overall strategy? What is the link between NATO’s military forces and the West’s political purpose, which is to end the civil war and humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine?

To find a peaceful end to the original Cold War, NATO’s 1967 Harmel Report set out a two-track strategy: a robust military defence of alliance territory coupled with diplomatic efforts to resolve underlying political issues. The West should adopt a similar strategy today.

NATO is setting up a spearhead force of 5,000 troops to get to trouble spots within days. It is also increasing the capacity of its response force, drawn mainly from forces based in home countries, to 40,000 troops from 30,000. These are the right steps for a robust military defence against possible Russian aggression in Europe, given that Russia could strike without notice as it did in Georgia in 2008. The larger land forces of yesterday may also be necessary. Not only is the United States sending military equipment, but some Central and Eastern European countries are considering reinstituting conscription, and Germany is dusting off about 100 leopard tanks.

Canada should take part in the spearhead force with war-fighting contributions – advanced command and control, surveillance and precision strike capabilities – rather than a large land force commitment. Special forces, strategic airlift or a frigate would also be valuable. At least part of our contribution should be a permanent one. During the Cold War, Canada had 10,000 troops in Europe, reduced over time to about 1,300. Despite the modest commitment, when our forces headed home in 1993 it was big political news among our allies because of the show of solidarity a permanent force represents. It is time to go back to Europe with a small, permanently stationed force.

The second part of a two-track strategy is to use diplomacy to resolve political issues. Addressing the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine requires quelling the separatist movement, and this cannot be done without Russian support. We know from years of statements by Russian leaders that a primary reason for Russian activity is NATO’s enlargement. Russia faces the prospect of a large country on its border becoming a member of a once-enemy alliance – something the United States would not accept in its own hemisphere. NATO is non-threatening, but Russia does not see it that way.

In 2008, NATO stated that Ukraine and Georgia would become members of the alliance, which was reiterated at later summits. At last year’s gathering, NATO made no such statement, a step in the right direction to ease the crisis. But to resolve the underlying political issues, NATO should go further. It should negotiate an agreement with Russia under which Russia verifiably withdraws support for the rebels in exchange for a NATO statement that Ukraine will not become a NATO member. In this scenario, Russia and NATO would work together over the long term, perhaps with the assistance of a United Nations mission, to ensure Ukraine remains neutral and stable.

NATO’s response to Russian aggression necessarily requires a robust military defence. But without an overall strategy, there is real potential for escalation. For any peaceful resolution, the buildup must be coupled with a hard look at what is driving the crisis in the first place.

Elinor Sloan is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and professor of international relations at Carleton University.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Canada's State of Trade: Getting Our Goods To Market

May 17, 2018

On today's Global Exchange Podcast, we continue our series on the state of Canadian trade in a world of growing populism and protectionism. Today's episode, recorded during our February 13th State of Trade conference in Ottawa, features Bruce Borrows, Jennifer Fox, and David Miller in conversation with the Wilson Center's Laura Dawson about getting Canadian goods to international markets.


Between Trump, Iran and North Korea, Canada’s G7 has a high potential for chaos

by Chris Hall (feat. James Trottier & Colin Robertson), CBC News, May 18, 2018

The struggle Trudeau could face if Kinder Morgan walks away from Trans Mountain

by Robert Tuttle & Michael Bellusci (feat. Dennis McConaghy), Bloomberg News, May 18, 2018

Canada 'a laughing stock': Experts react to Trans Mountain indemnity

by April Fong (feat. Dennis McConaghy), BNN Bloomberg, May 18, 2018


with Danielle Smith (feat. Sarah Goldfeder), Global News Radio, May 18, 2018

VIDEO: NAFTA Deadline Day (@ 3:00)

with Don Martin (feat. John Weekes), CTV Power Play, May 17, 2018

VIDEO: Deal or no deal on NAFTA: Canada and U.S. send mixed messages

with Rosemary Barton (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC The National, May 17, 2018

Trump’s 'submission' strategy is not working so expect NAFTA talks to drag on

by Kevin Carmichael (Feat. Eric Miller), Financial Post, May 17, 2018

Backstop deal may be last hope for TransMountain pipeline, says former oil executive

by CBC News (feat. Dennis McConaghy), CBC News, May 17, 2018

Stuck with limited oil export options, Liberals may regret B.C. tanker ban

by John Ivison (feat. Dennis McConaghy), National Post, May 17, 2018

Feds OK early start to construction of navy’s new supply ships

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Dave Perry), The Canadian Press, May 17, 2018


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 421-7th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 4K9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2018 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email