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14 March 2022

Knocking on Nato’s door

The question hanging over Westminster is how to respond if Russian attacks stray over Ukraine's western border.

By Ailbhe Rea

Russia has brought the war in Ukraine to Nato’s doorstep, with an attack on a military base in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, less than 15 miles from the Polish border. Ukrainian authorities have reported that the airstrike killed 35 people.

This is the closest Russian attacks have come to Ukraine’s border with Poland, and therefore to the border of the EU and Nato, since the invasion began. The intent is clear: to warn Western countries against providing further military assistance to Ukraine. 

[see also: Ukraine’s UK ambassador on refugees: “Do you have to check that my family aren’t terrorists?”]

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, addressed Nato countries in response to the attack. In a video released shortly after midnight, he urged them to impose a no-fly zone over his country: “If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory, on Nato territory, on the homes of Nato citizens,” he said. 

The United States has said that Russia would meet with “the full force of the West” if attacks strayed to the other side of Ukraine’s border with Nato: an attack on one Nato country is, of course, an attack on all Nato countries. 

The question hanging over Westminster this morning is what the Western response to such an attack would look like, and what it would mean for the UK. But it is not something that any politician, whether in government or the opposition, wants to speculate about right now. There are, instead, faint hopes that peace talks between Ukraine and Russia could yield results within days.

But the attack on Yavoriv is still a concerning development with a Russian leader as apparently unstable and unpredictable as Vladimir Putin.

[see also: The poisoned peacemaker: why China can’t abandon Putin]

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