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How to Make Sure NATO Doesn’t Get Sucked into the Ukraine War

M1 Abrams NATO
M1 Abrams Tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine: The Next Phase of this War Will Unfold in the West – The recent incident in which a Ukrainian anti-missile rocket aimed at an incoming Russian rocket volley fell into the rural eastern Polish village of Przewodów, killing two farmers, brought home with renewed urgency the fact that the war in Ukraine can at any time escalate into a wider conflict, especially if Putin decides to target NATO territory along the flank. 

The Ukraine War Touches Poland

The response from the alliance was swift, with Polish President Andrzej Duda reaching out to President Joe Biden and other critical leaders for consultation as the crisis unfolded. The very nature of the incident, which for a brief period of time until it was determined not to be a Russian attack on Poland, raised the prospect that NATO’s Article V could be invoked.

On that day, Ukraine was subjected to the most brutal Russian attack against civilian infrastructure to date, with around one hundred missiles fired at critical infrastructure targets.  (The Ukrainian anti-missile rocket that strayed into Poland was fired to defend a critical interconnector linking the Polish and Ukrainian power grids.)  Estimates put the damage Russia has inflicted on Ukraine at over 50% of the country’s critical infrastructure, and counting. 

Clearly, the Russians – having failed to prevail on the battlefield – are determined to make sure that Ukraine is left with no water, electricity, or heat as the winter cold approaches. If any state behavior in wartime should qualify as attempted genocide, it is Russian actions in Ukraine. And yet the best the European Union seems to have been able to deliver so far is a vote in the EU parliament declaring Russia a state-sponsor of terrorism – a resolution perhaps rich on symbolism but with no concrete impact on what goes on in this war. 

The Winter War

After Russia’s initial failed “blitzkrieg” strategy, followed by its again unsuccessful long-range artillery barrage-cum-armor and infantry assaults, with Ukraine’s spectacular counteroffensive potentially running out of steam, the war in Ukraine appears to be entering its fourth phase this winter.

Putin is attacking Ukraine, but the battlefield is also now firmly in the West. The missile incident in Poland has driven home the message that unless NATO provides Ukraine with more robust anti-missile capability, aircraft and especially long-range weapons that would allow its military to strike at the source, the risk of a wider war that could pull in NATO will continue to grow. 

The missile incident in Poland should force the debate away from talk of “freezing” the conflict to the realization in Western capitals that the success of any peace deal down the line hinges on their support to Ukraine, especially weapons that would allow the Ukrainian military to strike at Russian missile launchers and aircraft on their territory, offsetting at least some of the advantage Putin’s military has enjoyed. 

Still, the rocket incident is unlikely to stiffen the democracies’ resolve to do what is necessary to help Ukraine win, for their reaction to it showed both determination to continue in some European capitals, but also timidity in others. 

How to Keep the Ukraine War in Ukraine

The Przewodów incident has also demonstrated that while the West has sought to keep the war in Ukraine contained, such an approach may only be possible if Ukraine is given the requisite offensive capabilities to even out the odds. 

As things stand, Russia continues to enjoy a unidirectional advantage, where the fighting and, most importantly, the suffering of the civilian population is taking place overwhelmingly in Ukraine and by Ukrainians. 

In reality, if we are to have reasonable expectations that the Russians may eventually recognize and acknowledge that victory in Ukraine is simply unattainable, this will have to be the result of a cost-benefit calculus, whereby the expenditure of resources to continue pursuing Putin’s neo-imperial folly is coupled with even more significant Russian losses on the battlefield and finally some real pain at home. 

What Happens Next?

The fourth phase of the Ukraine war that has just begun will see continued battles in the North, East and South, with both the Ukrainians and the Russians launching renewed attacks in an effort to score a breakthrough on the battlefield. 

In this phase, the Schwerpunkt of this conflict will now be more than ever before in the West, testing the pain threshold of democracies as the opportunity cost – whether in terms of the creature comforts of its citizenry or lost corporate profits – begins to bite. 

The current Western approach to providing Ukraine with weapons and support to allow it to stay in the fight and even score significant operational wins is not enough to allow Kyiv to achieve victory at a strategic level. But we continue to signal that each step the West takes in supplying Ukraine with military assistance is yet again an example of a “calibrated response” that should – as increasingly seems to be the conversation in Western capitals – bring Russia to the negotiating table. 

We seem unwilling to accept the reality that Russian losses, though severe, are not yet seen in Moscow as crippling. For Putin and his cronies, the cost of pursuing the current strategy rests on the calculus that Western determination to back Ukraine will waver with each passing winter month. The fourth phase of this conflict is now firmly about the “Western front,” and what the governments in the European capitals decide to do or not to do will shape the final outcome.      

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Andrew A. Michta is Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany, and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Strategy Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. 

Written By

Andrew A. Michta is the dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and a new Contributing Editor for 1945. He is the former Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College and former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMichta. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.



  1. Ezra Teter

    November 27, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    Considering that the Russians have escalated every single time that we have escalated, I am skeptical of any argument that they will capitulate when we escalate.

  2. Goran

    November 27, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Ukrainians would rather die than be subjects of Kremlin, how some Western government official feels about that does not play a role. Providing Ukrainians with assistance does bring credibility to all that talk about rule of law, freedom and so on, while not providing them with assistance will not make them quit, it will just increase their suffering.

    One more time, not sending Ukrainians what they need to defend themselves would not lower the cost of utilities in Western Europe, it would however make Western Europe complicit in Putin’s brutal aggression.

  3. 403Forbidden

    November 27, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    This is vietnam all over again.

    In 1964 democrat candidate LBJ vowed no US involvement in south-east asia but just nonths later, well-fed US soldiers were landing in south vietnam.

    US under war pimp biden is about to stand on the brink of repeating history.

    US via the DoD & the CIA have been involved in planning ukro offensives and supplying massive amounts of weapons.

    Soon, as ukro ability fizzles out under heavy missile and shell fire, US military will be forced to intervene or get drawn in the conflict.

    Result will be biden personally supervising a US war in europe against a nuclear power with enough doomsday weapons to initiate ww3.

    Biden is a war pawn or war pimp of the deep state or the secret agency or blob or US mafia bent on world control and world domination.

  4. Neil Ross

    November 27, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    “Clearly, the Russians – having failed to prevail on the battlefield…”

    You really should look at a map sometime. Russia remains in control of all the territory and more, that it claimed to want control over prior to the beginning of this conflict. This is likely not going to change anytime soon, no matter what military contributions are made by NATO countries. Negotiation has been the only logical path to ending this conflict, so I am disappointed that you do not mention negotiation as one of the options to prevent NATO from getting directly involved in this conflict.

  5. Neil Ross

    November 27, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    I suspect also, that if it had turned out to be a direct Russian missile attack on the country of Poland, the majority of NATO countries would have wanted to push Zelensky to go directly to the negotiation table rather than have any direct confrontation with Russia.

  6. Commentar

    November 27, 2022 at 6:24 pm

    NATO is a sucker for wars and other reckless dangerous military adventures once highly favored by hitler and co.

    Ditto for america as well.

    In 1999, american general wesley clark almost started world war 3 when he ordered a nearby NATO unit to destroy russian peacekeepers at pristina airport in kosovo.

    The officer in charge of the unit confirmed receiving the order but declined to carry it out thus avoiding a reckless adventure.

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to NATO and US for wars and reckless military adventures.

  7. Jim

    November 27, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    It’s not about what Ukraine does or its backers.

    It’s about what Russia does.

    Russia has the trump card (the power of initiative)… it just depends on when they play it… and what it consists of.

  8. Corrections Needed

    November 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Article IV would be invoked and perhaps ArticleV might be invoked in case of repeated attacks. The attempt at escalation was solely from Zelenskyy who continues to deny that it was a Ukrainian air missile.

  9. lupus

    November 28, 2022 at 6:25 am

    “. . Ukraine was subjected to the most brutal Russian attack against civilian infrastructure to date, with around one hundred missiles fired at critical infrastructure targets.”

    Pales into insignificance compared with “shock and awe” which is said to have killed 6,600 Iraqi’s – now seen as terrorism on a grand scale. Whoa you say, we thought Saddam had WMD’s. Well no he didn’t. There was no misunderstanding just LIES from the Empire of Lies.

    The rest of the world now sees the US for what it is – a bunch of liars and murderers rapidly descending down the toilet bowl of history.

  10. Andrew

    November 28, 2022 at 9:21 am

    This article has some great and constructive recommendation. However the plain fact is that the USA and NATO are being led by a corrupt, cowardly, spineless, moronic and illegitimate fraud who was cheated into office by the Dominionrat party, the FBI/DOJ deep state, all with cover from the America hating leftist MSM. As a result, Biden basically induced Adolf Putin to attack Ukraine purely out of weakness.

    Now, the world faces genocide and war in Europe, a world wide energy and food crisis, inflation and recession in the US and two more years of incompetence at the highest levels, all because the power-mad, control freak leftists in the US cheated the Delaware basement dwelling dolt into the White House in 2020.

  11. Fred Adams

    November 28, 2022 at 10:51 am

    Long term, Russian infrastructure must be made to suffer an equal degree of destruction to Ukraine’s before there is a chance of Ukraine “winning” this war of Russian aggression. The present situation is not sustainable. Either the West provides Ukraine with strategic assets capable of destroying Russian targets in Russia, or the Ukraine loses.

    Opinions differ, but I hope the free world won’t allow this dirty Russian aggression to succeed.

  12. GhostTomahawk

    November 28, 2022 at 11:21 am

    Walk away. Problem solved. Let the powers that be start a new proxy war elsewhere.

  13. thierry bruno

    November 28, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    What a joke! “Russia is practicing genocide in Ukraine” and “has a neo-imperial policy”. Such accusations from the pen of a propagandist of NATO, i.e. of the imperialist and militaristic policy of the United States, would be better laughed at. This gentleman applauded the American wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and now he is shedding crocodile tears over the Ukrainian people. But the Ukrainian people would certainly be better off if Washington had not organised the Mayan coup, if it had not trained and equipped the Ukrainian army to massacre the people of Donbass. In short, if the US had not decided to destroy Russia with a proxy war.

  14. Jim

    November 28, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    Mr. Adams states, “Russian infrastructure must be made to suffer an equal degree of destruction to Ukraine’s…”

    Fred, do you want World War III?

    I’m sure you don’t.

    But the result of your statement is a guarantee of getting Nato “sucked into Ukraine,” and a general European War.

    I’m sorry sir, but the result of your statement is not in the vital national security interest of the American People or European People or even the world for that matter.

    This was a failed policy from the beginning… your conception of the situation is wrong.

    Ukraine was never worth it, the authors of this Ukraine policy wanted world domination… The American Republic and the Sovereign, the American People, were never told about this agenda.

    America is great and can continue to be great without dominating the world… that goal will destroy this great republic… and is far away from what the Founding Fathers had in mind… and it is far away from what average Americans have in mind, today.

    Better to walk away from this awful policy… we owe nothing the the power circles in Ukraine and the American People own nothing to the small foreign policy clique that got us into this failed policy.

    We can do better than this…

  15. Goran

    November 28, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    Jim, even if there was some chance of just walking away, and there isn’t, Putin’s targeting of civilians is making it insanely difficult for the whole “walk away” initiative to pick up steam. The overall U.S. investment and the effects on the U.S. economy are minimal (as the sale of LNG and weapons systems are through the roof) and if any changes are to be made, they should go along the line of increasing Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself, possibly loaning them hundreds of Warthogs and F-16s that are just idling around and getting obsolete.

  16. Gary Jacobs

    November 28, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Jim, 403forgotten,

    Your collective schtick at trying to undermine Ukraine or making wildly inaccurate comparisons continues apace.

    Jim, you pretending Russia has the initiative is the most bizzare inversion of reality I have heard from you so far. And that’s saying a lot because inverting reality is pretty much your go to move. You might want to step off Putin’s primrose path because it’s Russia that keeps losing ground. And that is likely to continue.

    for 403, Comparing the Ukraine war to Vietnam is even more absurd than what Jim said. There are zero US uniformed troops in Ukraine. And certainly no draft. Russia has all that though, and worse. At least in Vietnam there was no winter freeze killing US troop the way it’s killing Russians.

    Jim, 403, and the rest of the Putinistas… Buried deep on the homepage of 1945, and widely reported in many other outlets, is the news that the US will likely provide Ukraine with the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb [GLSDB].

    GLSDB would give Ukraine a readily available weapon that can more than double its precision strike range capability to 150km, compared to the current MLRS/HIMARS at 70km. At the same time, it still lacks the punch and the range of ATACMS, making it politically more viable.

    It also can use existing launch infrastructure and tap into existing rocket motors and SDB stocks. Just as significantly, its range would increase the options for Ukraine to hit deep into Crimea, and well into the Russian rear in the east and south of Ukraine. The way the lines are right now, almost no Russian in Ukraine would be safe from the GLSDB…and there are literally thousands of them available.

    As well cost of the GLSDB is an attractive factor, with a single GLSDB priced at around $50,000. In contrast, a Guided MLRS round costs approximately $150,000 or more.

    the SDB portion of the weapon has the added value that it was developed for the kinds of low intensity warfare that we’d been fighting in the MidEast and Afghanistan in the previous two decades so there’s a strong argument that these munitions would be better served being converted to GLSDB for use in Ukraine anyway as they wont be used against an actual high end adversary like China.

    Have a liberating day.

  17. Steve

    November 28, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    “Russia remains in control of all the territory and more, that it claimed to want control over prior to the beginning of this conflict.”

    Why bother posting such drivel? Russia has already lost control of much of the territory they claim to have ‘annexed’ in their sham referenda, with more losses to come. Russia lost the Battle of Kiev, lost the Battle of Kharkiv, and lost the Battle of Kherson. The Russian military is poorly equipped, poorly supplied, poorly motivated, and poorly led. That’s a recipe for continued disasters.

    Those posting pro-Russian propaganda here would better help ‘the Motherland’ by investigating which Putin cronies got rich delivering shoddy or nonexistent military goods, and which generals lined their pockets by selling off anything that they could find a buyer for.

  18. froike

    November 28, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    Gary…thanks for being The Voice of Sanity. Clearly, The Putinescas blame this war on NATO and Ukraine. If Putin’s ORCS were successful in Ukraine, they surely would have been emboldened enough to invade another former Soviet Bloc Country.
    Too bad they didn’t try this with Poland…The Poles would have annihilated them in a few weeks; with or without NATO backing. To Bruno, The Ukraine War is not a Proxy War. It was an invasion of a budding Democracy.

  19. Walker

    November 28, 2022 at 6:57 pm

    The article is correct. There is no freezing the conflict. Idiots like Davis who push for this forget 2014 and what Russia does with a “frozen” conflict. There can only be one outcome that leads to real peace. That is the complete capitulation of Russia.

  20. Jim

    November 28, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    Goran, you’re right, the U. S. can’t just “walk away from this awful policy.”

    No, the U. S. is too involved… it’s too late for that.

    The U. S. and Russia should have a Peace Conference.

    Frankly, one of the conditions should be that the U. S. & Russia jointly work to “de-nazify” Ukraine.

    (Perhaps, that’s an unrealistic goal… but it’s the way I feel about it.)

    Ukraine is the last neo-nazi stronghold on the European Continent… it was a mistake to be involved with the power circles in Ukraine in the first place.

    And, given the situation, it’s more important to achieve a Peace Treaty than to “de-nazify” Ukraine… that’s my compromise… but the Ukraine power circle may not survive in any event… the longer the war goes on, the less likely.

    Some people, I’m sure, would be happy with a new Cold War against Russia. But that result is not in the vital national security interest of the American People.

    You don’t get everything you want in a Peace Treaty (compromise is often part of a settlement).

    Then we can hold to account the clique that got us into this bloody mess… and make sure they never do this again… to the American People or the European Peoples.

  21. Brent

    November 29, 2022 at 8:35 am

    Putin was >< close to being overthrown when it was thought to be a Russian missile that hit Poland. Russia is *terrified* of NATO – as they should be – they're just sniveling about retaliation as are their trolls around here. They're a 3rd world shite hole that discovered that their reach exceeded their grasp. I can't wait to see their entire corrupt society disintegrate. Let them live in mud huts for a few generations.

  22. Gary Jacobs

    November 29, 2022 at 4:11 pm


    “Frankly, one of the conditions should be that the U. S. & Russia jointly work to “de-nazify” Ukraine.”

    You are regurgitating Putin’s propaganda verbatim. It’s somewhere between downright laughable and incredibly offensive to suggest at this point considering Ukraine has a Jewish President who had family die in the Holocaust. Zelensky won over %70 of the vote when he got elected. It’s almost as significant as the US electing our first black President. But Obama didnt get quite that large of a share of the vote.

    By contrast, Putin’s Russia has supported Le Pen in France, Orban in Hungary, and just about every far right loon on planet earth…right up to Russia’s own Imperial Legion which has a far right militia fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine.

    There is a miniscule kernel of truth that Ukraine has to do a better job of confront the history of how some Ukrainians collaborated with Nazis during WWII. Electing a Jewish President with %70 of the vote is a damn good start. Ironically it was largely the centuries of tyranny by Russia against Ukraine that drove many Ukrainians to collaborate with Nazis.

    Bottom line: Russia should have nothing to do with Ukraine ever again. The best they can hope for is a treaty of neighborly relations after Russian troops are out of Ukraine.

    However, No one who even has the slightest idea of what is actually going on over there should ever propose that Russia should have anything to do with “denazifying”.

    Absolutely absurd.

  23. Jim

    November 29, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    President Zelensky was elected in 2019.

    President Zelensky was elected on a Peace Platform.

    That didn’t happen… partly because of the circles of power in Ukraine… the President was responsive to the inner circles of power… not the average Ukrainian who wanted peace… that’s why they voted for him.

    I think he had no choice… institutional forces were too strong… he only saw the full power after he was elected.

    Through various means.

    Any in-depth research identifies neo-nazi antecedents… Bandera, principally, but modern ones, as well, continuing on to this very day.

    Ukraine’s former ambassador to Germany was quoted as praising Bandera and calling some German “sad liverwurst.” Now, just recently, he’s been promoted to a senior foreign policy position.

    I’ll stand on the evidence.

  24. Gary Jacobs

    November 29, 2022 at 6:57 pm


    LoL, you are cherry picking “evidence” to fit your faux notion of smarts.

    Bandera got life in prison for his involvement in the 1934 assassination of Poland’s Minister of Interior Bronisław Pieracki.

    And who is perhaps the biggest supporter of Ukraine right now? Poland. They have a very complicated history, and yet Poland understands that Ukraine has made major progress. But here you are pretending you know more than Poles…or me, whose family was forced from this area by Russian tyranny… and those who didnt leave died in the Holocaust.

    Right now Millions of Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed into Polish homes. Not refugee centers or tents. Polish homes. As well, Poland has both supplied massive amounts of weapons to Ukraine and facilitated the transfer of western weapons.

    As for Bandera, he was freed from prison in 1939 after Germany invaded Poland. Bandera then prepared the June 30, 1941 Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood, vowing to work with Germany after they invaded the USSR. But the Germans were not going to allow Ukrainian independence so Bandera was promptly arrested by the Gestapo.

    There you have it…motivated to side with Germany primarily in opposition to the centuries of Russian atrocities committed against Ukraine…and arrested by the Gestapo the moment he tried to lead Ukraine to independence.

    Bandera is controversial in Ukraine, with some thinking he’s a hero, while many others focus on him being a Nazi collaborator who was responsible for the massacres of Polish and Jewish civilians.

    This is exactly what I meant about Ukraine confronting some of it’s past more directly. However, There is a lot more nuance where that came from, and clearly you do not have the knowledge base to understand even this much that has been discussed so far.

    You are focusing on a guy who massacred Poles and Jews, and yet Poles and Jews support Ukraine against Russia right now. That should tell you a lot about where Ukraine is at right now…but you cant be bothered to do complete research or critical thinking so Your streak of being consistently wrong about everything you post continues.

    Have a liberating day.

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