Steer Clear of the Latest Dispute Between Ukraine and Russia
Ukraine’s president wants to pull NATO into the latest clash with Russia:
In an interview published earlier Thursday with the German daily Bild, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid out his hope that NATO would “relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security” against Putin’s expansionist ambitions.
NATO countries have no reason to involve themselves in this dispute. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and the alliance has no obligation to assist in their defense. Introducing NATO vessels into the area would be extremely provocative and risks unnecessary escalation. Western governments can and should appeal to Moscow to release the seized Ukrainian vessels and their crews, but they have no right to deploy naval vessels in the Sea of Azov. As the AP report explains, “A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine stipulates that permission from both countries is required for warships from anywhere else to enter the internal sea.” Russia obviously won’t be giving NATO ships permission to enter, and there is no compelling reason why NATO should be taking sides in this conflict.
The U.S. and our NATO allies should make it emphatically clear to the Ukrainian government that the alliance is not going to join their conflict with Russia. Western governments should press Ukraine and Russia to de-escalate the standoff, and they should not give the Ukrainian government any false encouragement that military assistance is a possibility.