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Despite all the sanctions that many NATO nations have imposed on Russia – including travel bans and asset freezes of individuals, bans on imports and exports of key Russian materials such as crude oil, bans on broadcasting of Russian media, a SWIFT ban which bans making or receiving international payments, and a ban on maritime transport – Vladimir Putin shows no indications that he will back down in the near future. As the Associated Press reported on July 8, Putin even made the following statement in a Kremlin Parliament meeting: “Everybody should know that largely speaking, we haven’t even yet started anything in earnest.”

‌ It appears that Putin simply doesn’t care about the toll sanctions are taking on the Russian economy, and frankly why would he? He isn’t suffering the consequences; instead, Russian citizens are. Putin is clearly determined to do whatever it takes to overwhelm Ukraine, and the economic weapons NATO is employing against Russia certainly will not stop him. The goal was for these sanctions to damage the Russian economy to the point where they would be forced into ceasing their invasion efforts in Ukraine. It certainly has done significant economic damage, but it is not making Putin second guess his decisions in Ukraine in the slightest. The fact that this has forced Russia into a debt default for the first time in over one hundred years according to NPR, yet Putin is completely disregarding it, is proof that the economic sanctions aren’t as effective as anticipated. So that then begs the question: how should NATO deal with this going forward? 

This is a very difficult question to address. Being too aggressive could lead to a third world war, but appeasing a ruthless dictator could be a horrible mistake, especially when considering what events in history have taught us. Are the United States and other NATO countries really going to allow Putin to expand the Russian empire and inflict massive amounts of damage upon innocent civilians even more so than he already has? Sitting on the sidelines as a power-hungry, anti-democratic dictator seizes control of a democratic nation completely goes against the values of the US and most NATO countries.

The Russian government is not particularly solicitous towards ensuring and protecting human rights, and that is just evident not only in their massacres of Ukrainian citizens, but also with their treatment of their own citizens. If Ukraine were to fall to Russia, the worldwide impact would put the future of the world into jeopardy. Russia would gain more power and influence, and this in turn would encourage the rise of other tyrannical governments. Since Putin grew up in the height of the Soviet Union, and served as a KGB officer, it is clear he has a desire to reinstate the areas that were once a part of the USSR; this means his invasions may not end with Ukraine. According to the Guardian and the Spectator, Countries such as Moldova, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland could all be potential targets if Russia were to overcome Ukraine. 

The bottom line is that the US and the rest of NATO need to do everything in their power to prevent this from happening. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to join the war, but they certainly need to be more aggressive than economic sanctions and show Russia that they are willing to stand up against them especially in high stake situations such as this. The way this could be done is by giving Russia an ultimatum: if Russia chooses to continue its attacks after a given period of time, then the NATO countries will join the war. Disregarding nuclear weapons, Russia’s military is outmatched by the US’s military alone. Despite having around the same personnel, the level of military equipment the US possesses is considerably stronger than that of Russia. For reference, Russia spends $62.2 billion annually on its military, while the US spends $715 billion annually according to Forces. Additionally, the US’s Navy and Airforce is far stronger than that of Russia’s: the US has 11 aircraft carriers versus Russia’s 1, the US outnumbers Russia in Cruisers, Destroyers, and Frigates 113 to 31, the US has 416 drones while Russia has under 50, and the US has 1,574 aircrafts capable of combat compared to Russia’s 1,172. 

Additionally, if several other NATO countries would join the US and get involved, Putin would be a fool to not back down. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy also exhibit strong military forces that together would likely intimidate Putin to the point where he would pull out of the invasion. The fear of Putin utilizing nuclear weapons is very common among NATO countries; it is a particular concern when it comes to confronting Russia in a military conflict. But Putin is well aware that any decision to fire nuclear power towards a NATO country would result in a similar response towards Russia. These nuclear threats from Russia are almost certainly bluffs. In reality, it would take a lot for Putin to come to this decision, as it is a decision that would harm him and Russia to an equal if not greater extent. There may be room for diplomacy, but with the conditions Putin initially laid out about what it would take to end this war, it seems unlikely that he would meet in the middle, especially if he felt he would win the war regardless. 

All in all, joining a war against Russia is not ideal. But, if all other options were exhausted, joining the war may have to be considered for the greater good; especially when a likely outcome of the ultimatum I mentioned previously would be Russia pulling out of the war prior to NATO countries physically getting involved.

William Miller is currently undertaking work experience at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image: Katie Godowski]