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NATO Aims To Raise Price For Putin In Crimea — But How?


For more on the possible U.S. and Western response, I'm joined by Ivo Daalder. He was, until recently, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO. He served earlier on the National Security Council staff as director for European Affairs. Welcome to the program.

IVO DAALDER: Great to be here.

BLOCK: NATO has announced that it's going to be holding emergency discussions on Ukraine tomorrow. Do you think they should make the calculation that Crimea is now seized, taken over by Russia and the goal should be, let's prevent Eastern Ukraine from also falling into Russian hands?

DAALDER: Well, I think the goal should be to reverse what has happened over the weekend. Ukraine is an independent country. It's important that its neighbors recognize it as independent. Crimea is part of Ukraine, and that ought to be the goal, the status quo ante, back to where we were until the middle of last week.

BLOCK: Do you see any scenario where Putin walk this back?

DAALDER: Well, it's difficult. Clearly, Mr. Putin is not only focused on seizing Crimea, but he wants to influence events in the Ukraine, not only in the east. I think he wants to make sure that Ukraine remains very much in the Russian orbit. The goal here for the West, for NATO, for the European Union, for the United States, must be to raise the price of that strategy, to make clear to the Russians that this is something that is not only unacceptable in this day and age, but comes at great cost.

That price will primarily be financial. We already see the markets in Russia tumbling. The ruble is losing value and the kinds of considerations of sanctions that are not being discussed in Washington and in Brussels are a way to raise that price.

BLOCK: When you talk about raising the price, do you see a path where NATO would say, here is a red line where military action would be invoked, if this happens then we respond militarily?

DAALDER: Well, there is a very clear red line and, indeed, the decision by NATO to convene tomorrow under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which is an article that can be invoked by any member if it feels threatened - and Poland has now invoked it - is to make clear that there is a red line. When you are a member of NATO, the NATO countries are committed to your defense.

A number of countries that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact and, indeed, the three Baltic states that used to be part of the Soviet Union are now NATO members, and it is extremely important for the United States and indeed for all allies to underscore that their territorial integrity, their independence and their security is uppermost in NATO's mind.

BLOCK: You think that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which are NATO member states. You're saying NATO could intervene on their behalf. Ukraine is not a NATO member, so what is NATO's obligation to a country like Ukraine?

DAALDER: Well, there's no formal obligation by NATO that says that if attacked or threatened that NATO must come to its defense, but there is an informal understanding and, indeed, NATO defense ministers who just last week were meeting in Brussels once again underscored this, which is that NATO does support the independence and territorial integrity and indeed the borders of Ukraine and will not accept, and cannot accept, the kind of steps that have been taken over the weekend.

And that is why it's important that NATO, together with the European Union as well as the United States and other countries, now try to figure out ways to raise the price on Russia for it to reverse course.

BLOCK: What would that scenario look like? If Russia were to invade Eastern Ukraine on a large scale, what does that look like in terms of the Western response?

DAALDER: Well, it could ultimately involve military force, though not necessarily. There's no, as I said, there's no legal obligation to do that. But clearly, the kind of activity that dismembers a member of the international community, an invasion by one country of another, is the kind of international security problem, the kind of violation of international law that the international security system is set up to prevent. And if failing to prevent, the two reverse. It's in that sense no different than Iraq invading Kuwait in August 1990.

These are the kinds of events that ought to lead the international community to come together and to devise appropriate strategies - economic, diplomatic, military - as necessary to try and reverse it.

BLOCK: Do you think that the United States and the West in general have underestimated Putin's intentions?

DAALDER: Well, apparently we were surprised by this blatant military move, though the more we find out the more it seems that this is something that has been in the works for some time. The important thing now is to make sure that we understand what Mr. Putin is about. He is about the control of Ukraine and its future and its destiny. This is not about Crimea. This is about Ukraine. And we need to make sure that he does not succeed.

BLOCK: Ivo Daalder, thanks very much for talking with us.

DAALDER: My pleasure.

BLOCK: Ivo Daalder was the U.S. permanent representative to NATO. He is now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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