The West’s decision to finally send tanks to Ukraine has caused some to ask the uncomfortable question: Does this mean that NATO is now in direct conflict with Russia?
This narrative, which is being pushed hard by the Kremlin, undoubtedly helps Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies deflect from the fact that Moscow launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine and illegally occupied parts of a sovereign state.
It also, perhaps more conveniently for Putin, gives NATO allies pause for thought when it comes to deciding exactly how much military assistance they should give Ukraine.
First things first: The consensus among experts is that no NATO member is anywhere near what could be considered “at war” with Russia by any internationally accepted legal definition. Therefore, the idea that the alliance as a whole is at war with Russia is a non-starter.
“War would require strikes carried out by US or NATO forces, in uniform, attacking from NATO territory against Russian forces, Russian territory, or the Russian populace,” explains William Alberque, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Any fighting by Ukraine – with any conventional weapons, against any Russian forces – is not US/NATO war on Ukraine, no matter how much Russia wants to claim it so,” he adds.
Moscow’s tactic: That hasn’t kept the Kremlin from exploiting certain grey areas inherent to modern warfare to incorrectly claim that NATO is the chief aggressor in the conflict.
Those grey areas might include the use of Western intelligence to carry out attacks on Russian targets.
They could also invoke the US “war on terror” and use of NATO’s Article 5 after the 9/11 attacks, in which America was attacked by terrorists rather than a nation state, as a dubious parallel.
Russia’s Security Council secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, has claimed that the West is trying to “destroy” Russia. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, has said that the US administration is pushing Ukraine to “carry out terrorist attacks in Russia.”
More context: Whatever slim merit there might be to these cynical claims, they pale in comparison to the documented brutality and illegal actions of Russian forces in Ukraine since Putin ordered the invasion.
But the fact that they exist and are being taken seriously by analysts and commentators outside of Russia, including in Washington DC, plays into the Kremlin’s hands in more ways than one.
Continue reading McGee’s full analysis here.