The Ukrainian armed forces have stopped the Russian advance. The disarray and disaffection among Russian troops are palpable. The Russian military’s logistics are broken. Thousands upon thousands of Russian soldiers are dead or wounded. Five generals have been killed. Its armored columns have been destroyed. According to Ukrainian estimates, which have been confirmed by research organizations like the Institute for the Study of War, it will take the Kremlin up to a month to regroup and launch another multi-front assault.
The West must take this moment to act. A forward-leaning posture now will secure a much stronger negotiating position for the international community when Russian President Vladimir Putin is inevitably forced to face an end to the war not on his terms.
Great work is being done, and NATO members are already aiding the war effort. Ukraine’s allies in the neighborhood (the so-called “willing friends of Ukraine”) are joining together to create a corridor for humanitarian aid and the re-supply of Ukraine’s armed forces and its civilian resistance. Such re-supply, however, requires air cover, which means the deployment of surface-to-air defenses along the frontiers of the countries abutting Ukraine.
NATO need not endorse this initiative, but it should not oppose it. Rather, NATO should make clear that it is aware of the coalition’s initiative, and stands committed to the defense of all its members. Such a stance would shift the onus onto Putin, who will be forced to decide whether or not to react to surface-to-air missile strikes against Russian bombers attacking Polish-led coalition relief convoys.
NATO heads of state need to rethink their early assumptions about the war when it was believed Kyiv would fall to the Russian onslaught in as little as two days. These statesmen now need to accept that Ukraine can, in fact, be victorious, if it is provided with the proper support. Unfortunately, the red lines drawn so far by the West have done more to deter the Alliance itself than to fundamentally alter Russian behavior.
But that equation can still be changed. Russia’s war of choice is clearly going badly for Putin on the battlefield, and has increasingly begun to reverberate at home. Meanwhile, Ukrainians – military and civilians alike – have demonstrated that they will not surrender.
Ukraine’s neighbors are now moving beyond preconceived notions and self-imposed redlines to provide assistance to these brave people. It’s past time for the broader West to do the same. Reestablishing deterrence against Russia represents the only real way to stop the carnage currently being perpetrated by the Kremlin in towns and cities across Ukraine.
Such a sea change can begin at the current NATO summit. There’s simply no time to waste.
Ashot Topchian is a volunteer fighter from the Free Ukraine Resistance Movement, and is a platoon commander in the 112 Brigade of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine deployed in Kyiv. He is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.