Mr. Volker, the idea of ​​repelling Russian air attacks on Ukraine from NATO territory is currently being discussed. What’s behind it? To put this into perspective, one must first understand that Putin is deliberately attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure in order to terrorize Ukraine and destroy the country. He commits war crimes every day. The mentioned proposal comes from the discussion about how the West can help Ukraine protect people, cities and civil infrastructure.

This is not about becoming a belligerent and attacking Russia. It is a humanitarian act to protect people from war crimes.

What exactly could that look like? Three proposals are on the table. First: to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses by increasing the West’s deliveries – both in terms of number, type and range. Then the Ukrainian army would be in a better position to counter Russian attacks.

Secondly, NATO forces could shoot down Russian drones and missiles from their territory, for example from Poland or Romania, in order to protect Ukrainian population centers and civilian infrastructure. That would be an enormous help. The Odessa area, which is Ukraine’s economic lifeline and is under attack by the Russians from the sea, could be secured from Natal in Turkey.

Thirdly, NATO troops with air defense systems could be stationed on Ukrainian territory in order to participate directly in Ukraine’s air defense from there. French President Macron indicated this with his statements.

This option is of course very controversial. Poland, Great Britain, the Baltic States and Denmark would support this. But the USA and Germany are strictly against it.

A heated controversy has just developed in Germany over the second proposal, namely to support Ukrainian air defense from NATO territory. In NATO, this proposal is actually supported by a majority of members, but Germany and the USA are blocking it. This would be the same approach that the USA, France, Great Britain and Jordan recently used to protect Israel from Iranian drone attacks.

Interestingly, these are the same Iranian drones that Russia is using in Ukraine. The West refuses to do something to protect Ukraine from Russian attacks that it has done without problems in the Middle East.

Where does the resistance come from? The USA is afraid of escalation. The concern is that anything the US or NATO does in this direction could result in a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. And that could lead to attacks on NATO countries or other escalating steps, such as the use of nuclear weapons. Putin exploits this fear to stop us from doing the sensible things we are capable of.

Do you think Putin would see it as an escalation if Russian attacks were repelled from NATO states? No, I do not think so. Putin already sees himself at war with NATO. And he is attacking the NATO states – although not by conventional means, but with cyber attacks and hybrid warfare, for example through disinformation campaigns and election interference.

Could there be an agreement within NATO on such an approach? Ultimately it depends on Germany and the USA. In Germany we could agree on this, I think. Because there are already some voices within the coalition that are in favor of it, even if Chancellor Scholz is currently against it.

As far as the USA is concerned, I am more skeptical. The Biden administration appears to be very rigid in its position. And this closes the circle: As long as the USA does not support the idea, the federal government will not change its position.

Would it be conceivable that individual NATO states would take such measures without a decision from the alliance? Only as a last resort. If, for example, Kiev were to threaten to fall or were attacks of unprecedented severity to occur, such a coalition of the willing could form. But basically no one wants to do this without an alliance decision.

Because everyone wants to be sure of NATO support in the event of a Russian attack. Therefore, no NATO member state wants to embarrass its allies and take risks without everyone’s consent.

By Anja Wehler-Schöck

The original for this article “There are three proposals on the table for a NATO shield against Russia” comes from Tagesspiegel.