NATO’s Brave New World
On the eve of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 26th summit in Wales, CFR’s Janine Davidson says leaders of NATOmember countries must prepare to address the rising threat of unconventional warfare: namely, Russia’s “covert, implausibly deniable invasion” of Ukraine and the rampaging ISIS forces in the Middle East. Davidson, who previously served in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, says NATO should be assisting Ukraine with more military aid to deter any further Russian aggression. Regarding the Middle East, she adds her voice to those advocating for U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets inside Syria. “They need to be taken out. That may sound hawkish, but you cannot just attack them in one place and let them go someplace else. Now is not the time to stand back,” Davidson says.
Leaders of NATO member states don’t have the luxury of ignoring one or the other; they are going to have to look at both. In particular, they need to think about what different types of threats mean for the types of military capabilities NATO needs to be developing. Neither of these crises exemplifies the traditional military warfare that NATO was originally designed to confront. With Russia, you have a covert, implausibly deniable invasion that rises just below the line for what we consider “real” invasion, which in a NATO member nation would trigger an Article Five response. Likewise, ISIS is not a traditional military foe. It is not unlike what NATO has faced in Afghanistan for the last ten years, as well as in places like Libya.
There has been some criticism of NATO countries not providing enough material aid to Ukraine. Do you think this criticism is warranted?
NATO has not launched any sort of all-out military operation against Russia or the rebel forces. That’s true. But, I don’t think that is what it should have done. I advocated for a little bit more on the military front—not necessarily NATO boots on the ground, but more outside assistance for the Ukrainian military. And that’s happened to some extent. But NATO could probably have provided more robust support for the Ukrainian military. The theory is deterrence: if Putin believes that the Ukrainian military is more capable than it is, he might think twice about doing something more adventurous.