BOSTON, MA – Retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, currently Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, made statements to TNH discussing the dangerous situation as developing in Ukraine.
“There are no good military options,” Admiral Stavridis said. However, NATO should provide intelligence, information, logistics support, financial support, and advice to the Ukrainian government and its military forces.” Nonetheless, one of Stavridis’ specific recommendations is to mobilize NATO forces to, at a minimum, defend the Ukraine.
The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the first Naval officer to hold that distinction, Stavridis told TNH he would advise President Obama to isolate Russia “both diplomatically and economically, with a focus on sanctions that would weaken the ruble.”
Stavridis referred to his recent article in Foreign Policy, “NATO Needs to Move Now on Crimea,” in which he analyzed that now that the Olympics are over, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective is to retain influence, if not full control of the Ukraine.
“Like a chess player leaning forward,” Stavridis wrote of Putin, “his moves are sweeping the board.”
The admiral described the “strategic importance to Russia of the Black Sea port and the presence of a significant part of Russia’s fleet and its guaranteed access to the Mediterranean and the Levant.”
The hope, Stavridis says, is that cooler heads will prevail, but “hope is not a strategy, and therefore further action should be considered. Planning is vital to laying out options to decision-makers, and NATO’s military planners” will stay very busy accordingly.
The United States must work with NATO, Stavridis says, to weigh all of its options.
“In the military sphere, these include ordering the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), led by U.S. Gen. Phil Breedlove, to conduct prudent planning and present options in response to the situation.”
Stavridis realizes that there will be substantial backlash to any NATO involvement, but
“the stakes are high and the Russians are moving,” he wrote. “Sitting idle, without at least looking at options, is a mistake for NATO and would itself constitute a signal to Putin – one that he would welcome.”
He referenced to TNH ten specific recommendations he made in his Foreign Policy article: 1) Increasing all intelligence-gathering functions through satellites, Predator unmanned vehicles, and especially cyber; 2) using the NATO-Ukrainian Commission and existing military partnerships with the Ukrainian military to share information, intelligence, and situational awareness with authorities in Kiev; 3) providing advice to Ukrainian armed forces to prepare and position themselves in the event of further conflict; 4) developing NATO contingency plans to react to full-scale invasion of Ukraine and to a partial invasion likely of Crimea. NATO contingency planning can be cumbersome, but in Libya it moved quickly; 5) assigning one of the NATO Joint Force Commands (either Naples, Italy, or Brunssum, Netherlands) into direct overwatch of the situation; 6) standing up NATO crisis centers to full manning, especially at SHAPE and the relevant Joint Force Command; 7) ensuring that the Land and Maritime Component Commands (Izmir, Turkey, and Northwood in the United Kingdom, respectively) are conducting prudent planning in their areas of expertise and feeding their analysis to the Joint Force Command; 8) bringing the NATO Response Force, a 25,000-man sea, air, land, and special forces capability, to a higher state of alert; 9) convening allies with cyber-capabilities (this is not a NATO specialty) to consider options – at a minimum to defend Ukraine if it is attacked in this domain (as Georgia was); and 10) sailing NATO maritime forces into the Black Sea and setting up contingency plans for their use.