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To prevent President Vladimir Putin entering other parts of Ukraine, following Moscow’s recognition and occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday, Kiev should invite troops from Nato states to act as a tripwire against further incursion, they said.
The leading Russia analysts from the London-based Chatham House think tank also suggested that Nato should impose more no-fly and maritime restriction zones to curb Moscow’s ambitions in Eastern Europe.
Kremlin expert Kier Giles, author of Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West, said a sizeable military where it was needed with the intent to use force would be more effective than “trying to punish Russia after the fact with sanctions”.
“We can leverage the fact that Russia would prefer still to avoid escalation with the United States or with Nato by stopping being so predictable and saying what the West will not do to protect itself and its allies and its friends and instead actually take the initiative,” he said on Wednesday.
While there had been discussion of no-fly zones and maritime exclusion zones, “both of which would be effective in restricting Russia’s options against Ukraine,” the West should consider other options.
“Why are we not also sending our own peacekeepers into Ukraine at Ukraine’s invitation, mirroring Russian actions?” the Chatham House fellow told the webinar Russia-Ukraine crisis. “In an attempt to prevent that further escalation within Ukraine which Russia seems to be promising.”
Kataryna Wolczuk, an associate fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Programme, said that while Nato would not send troops, “individual Nato member states are free to organise peacekeeping missions they could send to Ukraine”.
“We are really looking for a number of willing Nato member states and perhaps countries from outside to organise a proper – not fake – peacekeeping mission,” she said. “Because we need to have a voice expressing and eyes on the ground to see what’s happening. This is the kind of deterrent which would be paradoxically borrowing from the Russian playbook when sending 'peacekeepers’ is what Russia has been doing so effectively for 30 years.”
Mr Giles also pointed to the success of Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence force in the Baltic states, where “just a small symbolic presence of troops from another country is highly effective in closing off a lot of potential Russian operations”.
This acted as a deterrent because it made clear other countries would willingly defend their allies “before the fight actually starts”.
“The EFP being such a huge success story provides a lot of case studies to how to emulate that in defending not only the Nato allies but also anywhere else that the West would not like to see him [Putin],” he said.
James Nixey, director of the Russia and Eurasia programme, agreed an EFP force would be effective but felt there was no will in the West to deploy one.
“I think the public appetite, sadly, isn’t necessarily there,” he said. “But I think there’s also a difference in what you can do and what you should do.”
The current manoeuvres in Ukraine were what Russia had been “preparing itself for for decades,” concluded Mr Giles.
“An enormously expensive military transformation programme has brought Russia to the point where it feels its armed forces are capable of waging 21st century warfare in Europe.”
By contrast, Britain and other Nato countries had shrunk their heavy warfare fighting capabilities, mostly after fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The bottom line is Russia feels able to act against Ukraine because of a failure of deterrence by the West overall and I would strongly suggest that the West stops failing,” he said.