With Ukrainian resistance standing its ground and proving formidable against invading Russian forces, it’s possible the ground war waged for the past two weeks by Russian President Vladimir Putin could continue for some time, Northeastern experts say. And if the U.S. and its NATO allies are going to avoid becoming militarily involved in a conflict that could spill over into other Western nations, potentially igniting a third world war, developments in the coming days will prove critical, says Mai’a Cross, the Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern.
“The next few weeks are going to be crucial in terms of figuring out whether the war spreads beyond Ukraine,” Cross says. “Russia is not doing so well on the ground, and is ramping up missile and airstrikes. That risks an accidental crossing into the border of a NATO country. The question is how NATO would respond to that.”
If there are accidental or purposeful Russian strikes into NATO territory, it would trigger Article 5 of the Western treaty, which would necessarily provoke a military response from the U.S., Cross says. It’s likely that would spark a conflict between the West and Russia on the order of a world war, as it would involve most of the world’s superpowers, she says.