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Putin’s challenge to NATO has only strengthened its alliance

Associated Press/Czarek Sokolowski

Nations and peoples often live through times of historic consequence and realignment without realizing the significance of the moment until after the fact. That is not the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.  

The most naked act of aggression on the European continent since the end of World War ll — and Putin’s threatened use of nuclear and chemical weapons — will have far-reaching consequences, which is readily apparent to all who are watching this unprovoked attack unfold. With events swirling so rapidly, it is still too early to determine what all those consequences will be.  

There is, however, one major consequence already evident which few — particularly Putin — could have foreseen: the extent to which his attack on Ukraine has united the Western democracies after years of fracture and indecision within NATO and the European Union (EU).  

Few NATO countries were making serious efforts to meet their financial obligations for the common defense in recent years, if not for decades. The Brits, meanwhile, pulled out of the EU. Barely a month ago, Germany was agreeing only to supply Ukraine with military helmets and hadn’t even delivered those yet. New democracies in Eastern Europe, such as Poland and Hungary, were demonstrating tentative movement back toward Russia just three decades after escaping from the old Soviet bloc. And neutral nations such as Sweden and Finland seemingly were behaving more neutrally than ever. The accepted thinking was that dependence on Russia’s oil and gas would prevent Germany and others in Europe from going along with serious sanctions against Russia, if it invaded Ukraine.  

Yet, in barely three weeks, the European world has turned upside down.

Condemnation of Putin is universal throughout Europe. Massive amounts of defensive weapons from all NATO nations are being supplied to Ukraine, at record speed. Unprecedented sanctions are draining Russia’s resources and seizing the stolen riches of its Putin-allied oligarchs.  


Poland has willingly accepted more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees. Leaders from Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic courageously traveled by train to Ukraine’s besieged capital, Kyiv, to meet and demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has emerged as the 21st century version of Britain’s celebrated World War II leader, Winston Churchill. And, perhaps most surprisingly, Finland and Sweden are now considering applying for membership in NATO.  

Putin has succeeded in creating European and Western Alliance unity in less than a month, something which had eluded American and Europe leaders for more than a decade.  

While the brutal invasion of Ukraine continues to rage and no one knows what its outcome will be, we do know that this Putin-created unity and sense of resolve will change Europe for years, if not for decades. And the recognition of that reality by Russia’s military, its intelligence apparatus, its oligarchs and its people in the streets could well lead to a palace coup and Putin’s removal — another consequence no one, including Putin, could have foreseen. 

Peter King was the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd and 3rd congressional districts for 28 years, including serving as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.

Tags Prelude to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine Russia–Ukraine relations Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelenskyy

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