I want to note two recent articles that deal with key geopolitical aspects of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The first is “Europe Can Never Be Secure While Russia Has Nuclear Weapons”, which former Norwegian PM Kjell Magne Bondevik published earlier this month in Newsweek, and the second is “Ukraine peace talks in the cards?” by the super-smart retired Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar.
Bondevik’s piece presents a punchy but interesting take on the issue of how people in “the West” should respond to the sometimes crude threats of nuclear use that Russian President Vladimir Putin and some of his top officials have made, in connection with the fighting in Ukraine. Bhadrakumar’s piece looks at some intriguing evidence that, though U.S. Pres. Joe Biden and his Secretary of State have continued to issue the same kind of bellicose, anti-Russian rhetoric they have maintained almost continuously since February 24, at the more “functional” level of economic/trade policy, Washington has been making some concessions to Russia’s concerns. (His conclusion that these concessions might augur some return by Washington to active diplomatic engagement with Moscow may be a bit of a stretch? But let’s see.)
So, turning to Bondevik’s article first, it is important to remember that Norway is a key, long-time member of NATO. So the fairly strident headline of his piece is not surprising; and nor is that of his opening paragraph:
Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons. Not in defense, not to maintain stability, but to coerce and intimidate: to facilitate its invasion of Ukraine, to constrain the international community’s ability to respond, and to provide a cover for war crimes. In the lead up to last month’s NATO summit in Madrid, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about placing nuclear weapons in Belarus. These actions are not something we should tolerate or shrug off. They constitute an immediate and appalling threat to all of us.
Russia’s actions, he later argues, “have turned our understanding of nuclear deterrence on its head.” Then this:
The Ukraine crisis has shown us that nuclear deterrence is a ridiculously cumbersome tool for dealing with contemporary security challenges. Confronted with the invasion of a European country by a nuclear-armed aggressor, NATO’s strategic…