By Erik Brattberg, resident fellow, the Atlantic Council
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
Writing for the National Interest, Brattberg sees the crisis brought on by Russia’s seizure of Crimea as “both a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity for the West.” With swift action and sound political leadership from Europe and the U.S., NATO might rediscover its strategic purpose as Europe conducts a “serious defense debate” and the U.S. pivots back to the Continent demonstrating a readiness to confront Putin’s actions.
Despite such possibilities, the author asserts it is far too early for NATO to declare victory. In fact, the Ukraine crisis might even undermine the NATO alliance. To date, the U.S.—still concerned about a rising China—has shown little interest in a renewed military focus on Europe. To encourage the U.S. to risk “war over Estonia,” Europeans must first demonstrate that they have “some skin in the game” by deploying some of their own military assets in Central Europe. If NATO is willing to defend Central Europe and forge a new strategic rational, it should also reach out to Japan, Australia, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, demonstrating its value to other regions and other issues than Ukraine.
The Continent may now be awake to the Russian threat. Even so, Europe seems as likely to divide as to unite, to reduce as to increase its defense spending, and to look inward as to reach out.
After decades of being defended by the U.S., Brattberg is right to wonder if Europe can realistically confront “the greatest challenge to the transatlantic alliance since the Cold War.”