The West’s decision to finally send tanks to Ukraine has led some to ask the uncomfortable question: does this mean that NATO is now in direct conflict with Russia?
This narrative, pushed hard by the Kremlin, no doubt helps Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies distract from the fact that Moscow has launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine and illegally occupied parts of a sovereign state. .
It also, perhaps more conveniently for Putin, gives NATO allies something to think about when deciding exactly how much military aid they should give Ukraine.
First of all: The consensus among experts is that no NATO member is close to what could be considered “at war” with Russia under any internationally accepted legal definition. Therefore, the idea that the alliance as a whole is at war with Russia is a no-start.
“War would require strikes by US or NATO forces, in uniform, attacking from NATO territory against Russian forces, Russian territory or the Russian population,” says William Alberque, of the Institute. International Center for Strategic Studies.
“Any fight by Ukraine – with conventional weapons, against Russian forces – is not a war between the United States and NATO against Ukraine, no matter how much Russia wants to pretend it is,” he added.
Moscow’s tactic: That hasn’t stopped the Kremlin from exploiting certain gray areas inherent in modern warfare to falsely claim that NATO is the primary aggressor in the conflict.
These gray areas could include the use of Western intelligence to carry out attacks against Russian targets.
They could also point to the United States’ “war on terror” and NATO’s use of Article 5 after the 9/11 attacks, in which America was attacked by terrorists rather than a Nation-state, as a dubious parallel.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev claimed that the West was trying to “destroy” Russia. Anatoly Antonov, Russian Ambassador to the United States, said the US administration was pushing Ukraine to “commit terrorist attacks in Russia”.
More context: Whatever the merit of these cynical claims, they pale in comparison to the documented brutality and illegal actions of Russian forces in Ukraine since Putin ordered the invasion.
But the fact that they exist and are taken seriously by analysts and commentators outside Russia, including in Washington DC, plays into the Kremlin’s hands in more ways than one.
Continue reading McGee’s full analysis here.