As the NATO summit in Wales has closed, we reflect on the alliance that has kept the peace on the European continent for 70 years — recently celebrated in Normandy on June 6. We cannot imagine that war will start again on the continent in Ukraine, only three hours from Paris. We celebrate the European Union and all that it brings to the continent, linking the 28 members (Croatia being the newest member, joining in August) through the six flows of integration: people, money, merchandise, information, culture and education. And it is peaceful — well, was peaceful — until the Russian incursion into Ukraine.


You say to yourself: Where is Ukraine and why does it matter to me, in the States? Believe it or not, it does matter, because Ukraine is an important lynchpin in the energy security equation in Europe. Without it — and yes, there are other pipelines — Europe would not be prosperous and peaceful. Ukraine matters because it declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, like most of the former Soviet republics. And its sovereignty and territorial integrity should be upheld and respected.

The crisis in Ukraine demands a response from Europe and from the international community. The cease-fire went into effect as Ukrainian President Petro Porochenko looked at his watch last week in Wales. But the response — and here is where the EU and the U.S. differ — may be different, as both entities have different stakes, different engagements. While it is easy for the U.S. to easily slap three round of sanctions on Russia, it must be understood that the EU, and certainly Germany and the Baltic countries and all those that border Russia, are a bit hesitant, as their economies are entirely intertwined and interlocked in many ways.

Let's look at just one aspect of this crisis: depending 100 percent on Russia for their energy are the Baltic states; the rest of Europe has a 25 percent dependency rate. It is quite easy to understand that, as fall and winter approach, those dependent countries are hard-pressed to support sanctions with Russia, with which they share a border; these countries also have Russian citizens inside their borders.

With Spearhead, NATO's new 4,000-men strong rapid reaction force, the alliance is set to respond to the military part of the equation, in the face of all of the European countries having reduced their defense budgets, except for Sweden. And hard power is necessary to support and back up soft power. Soft power alone, or just drawing red lines, is not enough. Demonstrating strength and resolve are necessary, especially when a country's sovereignty and its borders are violated and international law is flouted. In return, however, trade must be reestablished, the agricultural blocades lifted and visa restrictions lightened.

In light of growing number of violent non-state actors, NATO continues to ensure the peace and prosperity on the European continent. But to exclude and alienate Russia, which has a special relationship with NATO and the EU, would be a grave mistake and the West would and can expect to bare the consequences, both militarily and economically.

Wasylina is the president and founder of the Observatory of the Black, Gulf and Mediterranean Seas.