1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ukraine war ushers in Europe's 'new normal'

Riegert Bernd Kommentarbild App
Bernd Riegert
March 24, 2022

The aid that NATO will offer Ukraine is limited. What will be the result of this war in Europe? The military alliance has to think of the future and boost its defenses, says DW's Bernd Riegert.

US soldiers in Poland
Moving NATO troops from one country to another won't be enough to ensure European securityImage: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP

NATO has to come to terms with a completely new security situation. A new reality, the "new normal," as Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described it on Thursday.

The Russian attempt to subjugate Ukraine has catapulted the world back a good 30 to 40 years to the Cold War era when highly armed military blocs faced off against each other in the middle of Europe.

When the Russian ruler's war of aggression eventually ends, NATO will have to allow Russia and allies like Belarus to disappear again behind an Iron Curtain. The new world order that Vladimir Putin is forcing upon the West will be shaped by containment and isolation of the hazard.

The big question for NATO and the West will be what to do with China? The Communist dictatorship there seems to be going in the same direction as Putin's Russia. Accordingly, the state that could soon become the world's largest economy might also have to be contained and isolated.

The United States and Europe will have to become less independent on a country that has served for decades as a place to produce goods cheaply, a place to sell their products, and a supplier of crucial commodities.

It amounts to deglobalization, a dismantling of the international network that has been desired and promoted over the past 40 years.

'NATO is rethinking its own security': DW's Teri Schultz in Brussels

Shifting around some troops won't suffice

NATO will have to take all of this into account for the new strategy due to be developed ahead of its next summit in June in Madrid. This is only possible as long as there is a president in the White House who is as committed to Europe and the trans-Atlantic cooperation as Joe Biden, now and beyond 2025. It is hard to imagine what the situation would be like if Donald Trump was still in charge today. Russia's aggression shows Europeans just how indispensable the US is.

Riegert Bernd
DW Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

The sanctions against Russia and Belarus will remain in place even after the war, which will hopefully end soon. The goal will have to remain to render the Russian economy and society incapable of action as long as the "Putin system" exists. Thus, NATO has an enormous task ahead. It will not suffice to shift a few thousand troops and deploy four new NATO battlegroups in four states on the alliance's eastern edge.

NATO could not repel a massive attack

Today, NATO would not be able to rapidly repel a massive attack by Russia by land or sea. There are doubts whether nuclear deterrence, the core element of the balance of power during the Cold War, can still function. If the ruler in the Kremlin does not necessarily care that whoever uses nuclear weapons dies second, deterrence does not work.

NATO, the EU and the West as a whole will have to massively re-arm and strengthen their armies. Some states, such as Germany, have already recognized this and announced an increase in their defense expenditure. More honesty is needed and the acknowledgment that some of the budget will go towards rebuilding a territorial army with infantry, tanks, artillery and a powerful air force. This will be a huge feat, both in financial and societal terms, and it will have an impact on people's daily lives.

It could be difficult with today's moderately motivated armies. Germany and other states could find themselves forcedto reintroduce conscription if they want to train enough personnel and reservists to build up an effective deterrent. It sounds like an appeal from a dark past, which many believed had been overcome. Unfortunately, this is the new reality. For NATO, there is a clear culprit: This is Putin's war. The only conclusion is surely that Putin must go.

This article was translated from German. 

'NATO is rethinking its own security': DW's Teri Schultz in Brussels

Riegert Bernd Kommentarbild App
Bernd Riegert Senior European correspondent in Brussels with a focus on people and politics in the European Union
Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo pictured during an interview with DW
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage