York College professor: Biden should rely on DIME to keep pressure on Putin

John Weaver
York College
A girl sits in the improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

War is scary. Nuclear war is scarier. Though many around the world want the United States —  and by extension, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — to do more to help Ukraine, western leaders must be careful and exercise temperance.

At present, Russia possesses more nuclear weapons than all the nuclear powers the world over. When President Biden meets with other NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, he would be wise to underscore what the U.S. refers to as the instruments of national power — diplomacy, information, military and economic (D.I.M.E.) — if he wants to keep pressure on Putin and avoid conflict escalation and nuclear war.

Diplomacy. First and foremost, Biden must implore the 29 other NATO member countries to keep the lines of communication open and turn to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to serve as the face of the alliance efforts and to continue to avoid mixed messaging. Biden/Stoltenberg must stay in lockstep to keep all allies together should work offline regarding dissension or disagreements. Compromise might be necessary (after all, getting 30 members to agree on anything can be fraught with challenges). What is of paramount concern is a united front on the alliance’s approach to dealing with Russia.

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Information. Biden must underscore the importance of NATO’s messaging campaign. The messaging on the part of NATO is important for two reasons. First, NATO must be “on message” to mitigate the likelihood of Putin using inconsistencies against the alliance to weaken its position. Likewise, NATO must be adept at countering Russia’s misinformation campaign by revealing flaws and lies and reinforcing reality and facts. This will weaken Russia’s information campaign and help keep other non-NATO countries in the camp of the alliance rather than having them gravitate to team Russia.

Military. What gives NATO strength are the military capabilities of the alliance members. Collectively, NATO has tremendous combat power vis-à-vis advanced fighter jets, missiles, carrier strike groups, tanks, infantry (mounted and dismounted), and special operations forces.

That said, most NATO member countries are falling short of committing 2% of their GDP towards investment. Now would be an excellent chance for Biden to remind the countries of NATO of the existential threat presented by Russia. Future investment must look to spending increases in viable capabilities that could be called upon in the future; the United States must not be the default provider and funder of said capabilities for its European partners.

John Weaver is an associate professor of intelligence analysis at York College of Pennsylvania. He is the author of NATO in Contemporary Times: Purpose, Relevance, Future.

Moreover, Biden should encourage its European allies to contribute to the Enhanced Forward Presence Brigades (eFPs) in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to both strengthen NATO’s eastern flank and to remind Putin of the viability of the alliance’s military capabilities.

Finally, Biden and Stoltenberg should look at contingency operations if Russia were to engage an alliance country to respond in kind, but in a way that is proportional so as to clearly show a position of strength while avoiding escalating the war.

Economic. Biden needs to accentuate what else can still be done to hurt Russia economically. Conversely, economic means (sanctions/tariffs) can be used as both a carrot and a stick and could potentially help offer the alliance an offramp to present to Russia to possibly get them to withdraw from Ukraine.

 All that stated, Ukraine gets a vote. NATO (and by extension, the United States), should not unilaterally decide Ukraine’s fate without input from President Zelensky.

Though the European members of NATO are concerned about their security, it begins with the nation directly affected by Russia’s military advances. Throughout the implementation of the instruments of national power (D.I.M.E.), Biden/Stoltenberg must engage with Zelensky to know what they are working on and get input from the Ukrainian president before proceeding to ensure everyone is singing from the same sheet of music.

War is scary. Nuclear war is scarier. Biden needs to ensure that the NATO Secretary and General, and the alliance member countries, remain engaged with the D.I.M.E. instruments to avoid escalation of the conflict to something akin to World War III.

— John Weaver is an associate professor of intelligence analysis at York College of Pennsylvania. He is the author of "NATO in Contemporary Times: Purpose, Relevance, Future."