Only a strong defence will maintain peace in Europe

Only a strong defence will maintain peace in Europe

A new Cold War between Russia and the US-European Alliance has returned after the European Union and the US imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

That was when dialogue stopped. Nato is now on alert and Russia’s air force and navy are provoking the alliance. This uneasy situation is exacerbated by the end of talks between the parties. Russia poses a military threat in response to the West’s sanctions.

Poland’s Defence Minister Tomasz Siemonik said that Russia is engaging in an unprecedented amount of activity around the Baltic Sea, probably to test Nato’s reactions. There is a real danger of escalation when the Nato and Russian commands are not talking to each other.

Both sides talked to each other during the Cold War, which ended in 1991, and avoided accidents flaring into military action and war. They were able to control an extremely dangerous situation.

But today, when America announces a plan for a new set of sanctions, Russia responds with warnings of retaliation.

The rights of self-determination for Ukraine and Georgia are being challenged. The Kremlin has a subjective view of this right. Self-determination ends where Russia’s national interests, defined by Moscow, are concerned. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin justifies annexation of Crimea by claiming the population has the right to self-determination, but he denies this right to Chechnya.

A peaceful solution with Russia has to be achieved, but with two goals:

- A peaceful neighbourhood, based on mutual respect and flourishing trade.

- Respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

Russia's military might and its threats pose a problem when Europe is militarily weak. A defence vacuum has emerged as America has reduced its armed forces in Europe. The Kremlin treats the West from a position of strength. It is European weakness which allows Russia to threaten it with military action.

The Romans said, ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’. This underlines the age-old truth that only a strong deterrent protects belligerent attacks.

If Europe wants to maintain peace, keep its right to self-determination, and be able to negotiate good relationships with Russia on an equal footing, it has to drastically reinforce its defensive capabilities. Announcing more spending on defence would be a strong signal of intent.

We hope it is not too late.

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