Ukraine conflict: The West relies on pressure and dialogue

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As of: 01/18/2022 7:50 p.m

NATO is “preparing for the worst” in the Ukraine conflict – said Secretary General Stoltenberg in the ARD. At the same time, the West continues to rely on diplomacy – but will that persuade Russia’s President Putin to give in?

By Kai Küstner, ARD Capital Studio

Despite all the talks with Russia and all the efforts of German crisis diplomacy, the danger has not been averted. NATO also sees it this way: “We have to be prepared for the worst: Russia using military force again,” warns NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an exclusive interview with the ARD Capital Studio.

Kai Küstner
ARD Capital Studio

That doesn’t necessarily mean that tens of thousands of Russian troops are going to invade Ukraine, Stoltenberg clarifies. But there are other types of aggression – serious cyber attacks, for example – that could destabilize the country.

Baerbock has internalized a dual strategy

In order to prevent horror scenarios of this kind, the German government is also relying on the dual strategy of pressure and dialogue, offers of talks and clear announcements, which has long been familiar when dealing with Russia.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock demonstrated in Moscow that she had internalized this shortly after taking office: She spoke of the “common European house” but also of common rules that need to be defended: “Even if it comes at a high economic price.” The unmistakable hint that it will be expensive for Russia if it dares to attack Ukraine.

The Green politician took little home with her in terms of tangible commitments. But the certainty that she did not let the experienced and feared Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov show her up, as many had predicted. And the certainty that Russia has not cut the much-cited thread of conversation in front of the cameras.

Scholz warns Russia of “high costs”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz also wants to continue this thread of conversation. Its party, the SPD, recently had to be accused of being all too soft-footed in dealing with Russia, even in the face of the military threat. And to have given Russian President Vladimir Putin the impression that he had next to nothing to fear, even in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

In Berlin, the chancellor warned Russia of “high costs” and added the crucial half-sentence that “everything has to be discussed”. With which he made it clear that an end to the highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline is not as taboo as some in his party would like it to be.

NATO hopes for positive response

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg cannot be elicited criticism of the German-Russian pipeline. But he resigned in return ARD-Interview for an early written reply from all 30 allies to the “security guarantees” demanded by Russia. The alliance’s proposals would include a wide range of issues: “arms control, measures to increase transparency in military activities, missiles and many other issues important for the security of Europe and for the situation in and around Ukraine.”

During his visit to Berlin, Stoltenberg announced that he had invited further meetings of the NATO-Russia Council. However, Russia has made it clear that it first wants to see NATO’s written proposals before responding to the invitation, Stoltenberg said in the ARD: “I hope that Russia will respond positively. NATO is ready to continue meeting with Russia.”

However, there is no guarantee that the dual strategy of pressure and dialogue currently being pursued so intensively by NATO and the German government will work. And the traffic light coalition is still struggling to get a crystal-clear line on how much weight is to be placed on the respective scales.

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