Franco-German efforts to seek a ceasefire in Ukraine have obscured an emerging consensus among NATO’s frontline states — there can be no deal with the Russian aggressor.

Discussions on this new geopolitical reality, created by the understanding of Russian military adventurism, are already underway though not always in public; one such closed-door gathering was organized in Riga last week. Nordic and other Eastern Flank policymakers argued that bringing Russia to justice is not only a matter of morality, but also of strategy: otherwise, the West is exposing itself to existential risk.

One expert vocalized a widespread understanding in the room: “With the war, the geopolitical dynamics changed. The Baltic Sea region has become very visible. This is the moment to deepen Eastern Flank cooperation: to speak one voice, plus take Ukraine on board.” There were multiple discussions about military preparations.

This approach contrasts with that of France, Germany, and Italy, the European Union’s (EU’s) three biggest members, which have led efforts to negotiate an end to Russia’s shooting war, often without consulting Ukraine’s leaders. The Eastern Flank states are not yet a fully formed counterweight to this west European grouping, but they have the potential to recognize their significance and to develop an alternative voice.

The region’s thinking meshes with NATO’s strategic shift to forward defense and active deterrence, which may be formally agreed upon at the Madrid summit this month or the Vilnius summit next year. The Baltic gathering simply recognized a new reality: at one end, Sweden and Finland are significantly reinforcing their transatlantic commitment (military interoperability is already established), and on the other, Ukraine is becoming a de facto member of that same Western security architecture.

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