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Ukraine crisis: EU and NATO must act before the crisis escalates militarily

Engin Eroglu

The massive Russian military build-up along the Ukrainian border and fears that Russia could invade Ukraine have kept the world breathing for some time.

During last Tuesday's plenary debate in the EU Parliament, MEPs across political camps highlighted the threatening nature of the situation, with Russian troops having already invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014. The situation on the Ukrainian border could mean a dangerous new phase of international rivalry. This is not just about the dispute between the Russian and Ukrainian governments. It is about whether we will see a dramatic escalation of military confrontation between the great powers. The diplomatic efforts to prevent such an escalation must therefore be comprehensive and taken together with our NATO partners.

The Russian government has already shifted territorial borders in 2008 and 2014 - a clear breach of international law. Putin is not afraid to create military facts overnight. Therefore, we need concrete plans to show red lines. Targeted sanctions, such as cutting Russia off from the SWIFT payment system, could be an effective tool. Otherwise, the EU will end up being a spectator once again.

President Putin has always denied that he is planning an invasion of Ukraine and has blamed rising tensions on US and NATO support for the Ukrainian government. However, US intelligence reports have gathered evidence of possible attack preparations by the Russian government. At the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry last week published a list of demands to end the crisis, including that Ukraine and Georgia not become NATO members.

In the final analysis, this is nothing more than a cheap attempt at blackmail against the NATO countries, which is not realistic - Putin should also know that. Because we cannot make such a promise to Putin, because it is the right of the Ukrainian government and the citizens of the country to decide whether they want to join NATO.

Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be preserved at all costs and must not become a pawn in the game of big power interests, as it was in 2014. But the clock is ticking. Putin could withdraw his troops, but it would be embarrassing to do so without a solid victory in his pocket. This is what makes the current situation so dangerous, because escalation can happen quickly. Putin could still decide not to launch an invasion, but the renewed military build-up does not bode well for us in the long term either. It seems we are in for a series of future crises as authoritarian rulers like Putin and China's Xi Jinping increasingly try to change the course of other countries towards the West. For this reason in particular, it is essential not only to talk about red lines, but also to enforce them.

Engin Eroglu