When the Russian general spoke, he leaned into the table and said, “When I was a young soldier in the Soviet Army during the Cold War, I thought of NATO like this…” and he held his hand into a powerful fist. “But now that I am serving with NATO as a liaison, I am thinking, this…” and his hand went limp and wobbly with a whiny sounding sigh. If this small interaction reflects in any way a wider view of NATO by Russian civilian and military leaders, NATO has its work cut out for it in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that continued military aggression in Ukraine will be challenged.
It is perfectly reasonable to want to avoid military confrontation with Russia. But deterrence requires a credible threat of military action. The various economic and diplomatic efforts to isolate Russia and compel Putin to pull back his troops are wise, and they are likely to have an effect. But soft and hard power are two sides of a coin. We need to recognize how military options fit into this strategy.
I would think Mr. Putin ought to recognize that option too.