NATO must take care of eastern Ukraine

The current set of circumstances in Ukraine constitute an extraordinary opportunity to further integrate Western Europe into this new reality, including by swiftly restoring the autonomous status of Crimea. Yet in Russia, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine remains a source of deep concern, creating an atmosphere that discourages Western investment. The deterioration of the situation in Ukraine could well lead to a political stalemate. For this reason, the July 26 summit communiqué of NATO and the Eurasian Economic Union should include an explicit recognition of the political and economic importance of Ukraine to the stability of the Eurasian continent.

This new dimension should help to transform NATO toward the East, whose two military components – members and partners – could help foster broader security cooperation. In this vein, it is crucially important that NATO’s European members cooperate with their NATO allies on strengthening the Alliance’s security capabilities. This new framework should also lead to a reconfiguration of the Alliance’s planning exercises and increasing its capability to deal with cyber threats.

This is where the new partnership agreement with New Delhi comes in. The prospect of India coming on board as a member of NATO is reassuring for all NATO members in the South Asia region, where Russia and China have proliferated significant military and security capabilities of their own. But India has long had serious concerns about supporting the Alliance. Instead, India opened new avenues for cooperation with Russia, including energy supplies, arms and military sales, and cooperation in the military field.

First, it should be the most successful contributor to NATO Resolute Support missions in Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina, thus establishing a strong base for India to join NATO and gain access to the Alliance’s assets, particularly its combat aircraft, large capacities of armored vehicles, tactical armored helicopters, and infantry fighting vehicles.

At the same time, the two countries should agree to pool their resources, including strategic reserves, through a joint venture of some kind. Among the many concerns for India today, resource shortages are particularly acute, especially for military procurements. Access to West Asian oil and gas needs to be integrated into India’s energy import strategy. India has also acquired surplus military equipment, at prices affordable by it, from the United States and Russia, and a joint production and assembly of these capabilities, making this a winning recipe for tackling resource bottlenecks.

Second, India’s counter-terrorist campaign in Kashmir needs to be fully supported, especially from NATO-led and non-NATO facilities such as at NATO’s Forward Presence Force in the Arabian Sea.

Third, India should accept the invitation of NATO for its contribution to Allies’ exercises and security partnerships, enabling an acceleration of shared geopolitical priorities, including a rapid integration of India in Afghanistan and India’s immediate neighbors.

Finally, it would be a positive step if India formally joins the NATO cooperative mechanisms, such as the Preventive Task Force, the International Center for Military Counterterrorism and the Strategic Stability Partnerships Program.

This would enhance NATO’s ability to shape future conditions and enable it to accommodate new security challenges. For India, such a move would help to further reduce the asymmetry with China and the West in relations.

A comprehensive vision for Ukraine is a critical first step toward a positive turn in NATO-India relations.

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