For the younger generation, preoccupied, like the German Greens, with the environment and focused on human rights and gender and racial equality, “it is the politics of the 19th century that erupts and clashes with their concerns of the 21st century,” he said.
Broadly speaking, Mr Ricketts said, the conflict reminds Europeans of the importance of NATO and American leadership in the transatlantic alliance. “Faith in talking to Russia rather than deterring it will be badly damaged by this,” he said.
A major Russian military action would lead to more military spending, push NATO to increase troop deployments closer to Russia, “deepen the chasm between Russia and the West and push Russia further into the hands of China and of the renminbi area, with Russia a small partner,’ Mr Ricketts said.
Already, NATO countries, including Britain, France, Germany and the United States, have moved troops, planes and ships to bolster member states from Poland and the Baltics to Romania, with France proposing a more permanent deployment in Romania. These deployments can take a while.
There are “long-term consequences, a long-term deterioration of the security environment in Europe because of this massive Russian military build-up, the threatening rhetoric,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, as defense ministers met in Brussels. “I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe.”
Understanding the escalation of tensions over Ukraine
There will also be a new debate on the push by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, for European strategic autonomy and resilience. A European security crisis where the European Union has little to add beyond the threat of sanctions worries many. But there are no easy or quick answers, suggested Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House.