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Biden will be in Brussels for NATO's meeting on the war in Ukraine

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

For more on the U.S.-NATO approach to Ukraine, we have Richard Haass, president on - of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former diplomat. Richard, welcome.

RICHARD HAASS: Good morning.

MARTINEZ: Now, President Biden is expected to announce new sanctions on Russia during this trip. So far, those sanctions have not seemed to deter Vladimir Putin. I saw that you wrote that if - Vladimir Putin is maybe more motivated to make a deal - actually, to make a point on Ukraine than to make a deal on them. Then what is the point of these sanctions, given the urgency?

HAASS: Well, the sanctions are one tool in the arsenal. Obviously, it makes Russia pay a price for its aggression. But the history of sanctions is such that they're not going to deliver Russia. But hopefully over time - and I understand that time is not necessarily on our side or Ukraine's side - but hopefully over time, they will increase the pressure or incentive on Russia to compromise.

MARTINEZ: The EU has not sanctioned Russia where it hurts the most, and that's oil and gas, because many Europeans still depend on Russian energy. Can the U.S. and the EU maybe work together to sanction Russia's energy, and maybe that could have a bigger impact on Vladimir Putin?

HAASS: That could have a much bigger impact on Vladimir Putin if it could be done. We're talking about nearly a billion dollars - with a B - going to Putin every day. So that offsets many of the other sanctions. The problem is Germany and parts of Europe have allowed themselves to become heavily energy-dependent on Russia, and there's simply no short-term way to turn the key here. You're talking about not just months, but probably years of gradually winding down dependence on Russia and winding up alternatives. And like I said, that's a matter of years.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. You know, yesterday on MORNING EDITION, my colleague Steve Inskeep spoke with retired Air Force General Philip Breedlove. He's also a former NATO supreme allied commander. This is what he had to say about President Biden's approach to publicly stating what he is willing to do and what he is willing to not do.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

PHILIP BREEDLOVE: You've heard these very public notes - no this, no that. And I think that we should be having conversations, and not so publicly. A military force wants to plan and look at options. And to stand up and take those options off the table preemptively is not the way we operate. We should allow military planners to take a look at this and then advise the civilians who make the decisions.

MARTINEZ: So, Richard, what do you think about General Breedlove's assessment about not taking things off the table?

HAASS: I disagree in the sense that we should not be threatening things we're not prepared to do. We were not prepared to put boots on the ground to resist the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And again, you don't want to raise questions of your credibility. Plus, we're doing a lot. We are providing a lot of arms to Ukraine. We are strengthening NATO. What I think we have to do - and by the way, no one's telling the military not to plan. That's what militaries do. They plan.

What we can do is plan for various scenarios. How do we plan, for example, for potential Russian escalation if they were to attack arms depots within NATO? How do we plan for Russian use of weapons of mass destruction, chemical or nuclear, inside Ukraine and so forth? How do we plan for Russian cyberattacks? All of that, we are doing, and we need to do, indeed. That's one of the big subjects for this summit. One of the sensitive areas is, how do we prepare for the fact that Russia may not simply continue to do what it's doing, which is essentially bombing civilian areas, but that it might be tempted to escalate in any number of ways?

MARTINEZ: Doesn't, though, that give Vladimir Putin a road map on where he can go and not go, possibly?

HAASS: Well, he seems to have chosen a path where, again, he's not so much fighting the Ukraine army as he's fighting or attacking Ukrainian civilians. What we need to do is continue to strengthen Ukraine's army. One thing we might want to look at is how we attack, for - give them the means to attack Russian ships in the Black Sea that are bombing ports in the south. But the whole idea here is to forge an effective indirect response, indirect help for Ukraine, without risking direct confrontation with Russia. That's the balancing act of the NATO strategy.

MARTINEZ: What if Belarus gets involved? What if they send troops into Ukraine to assist Russia? How does that change things?

HAASS: Complicates things. That would basically make Belarus a combatant. And we would want to look for ways that we're not just sanctioning Belarus exhaustively, but potentially, if they're going to become part of the theater of military operations, then they have to take the consequences of that.

MARTINEZ: Where do you see this conflict going in the coming weeks, or do I even say months, possibly, at this point?

HAASS: I think you do say months, possibly, even potentially longer. Look, the optimist in me would like to sit here and tell you, A, that we're going to have a negotiated outcome where various compromises will trade off. I don't see it happening at the moment. I think the most likely thing is a long war, what you might call a frozen conflict. Well, what we're seeing now, we're going to see a version of it - a military war between the Ukraine and the Russian armed forces, attacks on civilians - potentially with the possibility of escalation. I'm afraid that that's Ukraine's future for the foreseeable future.

MARTINEZ: That's Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Richard, thank you.

HAASS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.