What the US must do to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has put vulnerable democracies all over the world in jeopardy. Allies and partners who fought alongside us now question our country’s commitment to those difficult tasks. Nations that routinely weigh the challenges of establishing democracies against the apparent ease of aligning with autocrats are now questioning the strength and legitimacy of American support in that venture. Worse, opportunistic adversaries are strategizing and calculating ways to undermine American efforts and capitalize on perceived weaknesses in our commitment and resolve.

Only a few months after America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, we can see the geostrategic consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against the vulnerable country of Ukraine. 

The Russian army is now amassing forces along Russia’s extended border with Ukraine. Russia is expanding its information and cyberattacks against Ukraine, fomenting dissent among the minority ethnic Russian population in eastern Ukraine, and preparing a formidable military force to intervene in any conflict that may arise in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s instigation.

The time has come for the United States to reassert its global leadership. People all over the world look to America for assurances that we will uphold our values and defend the sacred ideals of life, liberty, and opportunity that we hold so dear. If we do not act, we may witness a rapid decline in freedom and democracy in all directions. The international order on which we rely will be shattered, and our national prosperity will be jeopardized.

The response to Russia’s aggression must be swift and comprehensive, encompassing all aspects of American power. The administration plays a critical role. Congress has the ability to provide legislative tools and support to sanction Russia, and and our allies must join us in this effort.

Congress can act now to define the scope of those sanctions and create legislative triggers that will automatically authorize and impose sanctions if Russian actions become excessively aggressive. 

The United States must continue to dismantle Russia’s economic pressure points on Ukraine. This entails preventing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from being completed and operational. If this pipeline becomes operational, Putin will have a powerful tool to isolate Ukraine from a strong and reliable revenue source while entangling our European allies’ energy sectors with Russian gas just as winter arrives.

The US must demonstrate its commitment to Ukraine’s defense by providing additional defensive capabilities such as anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, enhanced cyber defenses, training, and partnership. All of these capabilities will make Ukraine a more difficult problem for Putin and his imperialist ambitions.

The world is in desperate need of American leadership. We must show that we have the will and the strength to defend our values, and that we are an essential partner in ensuring human rights and freedoms, protecting and advancing democracies, and defending international norms that promote peace and prosperity for all.

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