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Bad Actors Step In When America Pulls Back

July 28, 2014
Weekly Columns

Ever since Russia violated Ukrainian sovereignty by sending troops to invade Crimea back in March, the world has been clearly warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the move to conquer and claim neighboring territory. While he started with making Crimea part of Russia, professing that he must do so as protector of the “Russian world,” clearly his goal is to take over huge swaths of the country of Ukraine and then threaten the sovereignty of other countries allied or associated with America.

Despite decreased media attention regarding the unrest along the Russia-Ukraine border, Russia’s bullying of Ukraine did not and has not decreased since Crimea was taken. Unfortunately, it took a painful tragedy for most to remember and recognize the gravity of the situation still facing our Ukrainian friends. Several days ago, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired by Russian-backed rebels as it was flying over the region, claiming every single life on board the commercial aircraft. Just days before this act of terrorism, two other planes belonging to the Ukraine Defense Ministry were shot down by similar missiles belonging to the separatists and provided to them by Russia. 

Putin doesn’t even pretend to support the western ideals of the rule of law and democracy. As I predicted, Putin’s actions show that he is out to destroy those associated with the West, which means since he’s threatened Ukraine, he’s also threatened America. While Ukraine’s defense force continues to hold the line as best it can against this tyrant, the pro-Russian rebels and the Russians continue brazen efforts to dismember Ukraine.

Even with the obvious warnings and much testing of the waters by Putin to see when America would say “enough,” this Administration has chosen to do nothing more than impose limited sanctions on Russia. Beyond that, our president has kept to his usual schedule, including three days last week fundraising on the West Coast.

When America pulls back, bad actors step in. America should be visibly standing alongside Ukraine in its fight for survival, by providing equipment, strategic advice or intelligence. In desperate times like these for our Ukrainian friends, the president should explore such options immediately by sending a military delegation to Kiev to define their needs and determine how we can help them thwart Russia. Without some sort of significant aid to the Ukrainian military right away, Russian attempts to dismember Ukraine will continue to intensify. 

According to the State Department, Russian artillery fired into Ukraine on Thursday. In addition, the Pentagon reported that Russia is sending more missiles to the separatists. Previously, Russia claimed that it had no part in the violence, but it’s no secret anymore that it intends to bring down Ukraine.

Ukraine is an important friend that shares our values. Rather than relying exclusively on sanctions, this situation requires strong, decisive leadership by President Obama. He must show that he’s ready to lead through aid that will actually deter the rebels and the Russians from more violence.

America should have demonstrated strength months ago when Ukraine was first threatened. Instead, inaction has led to escalation of pro-Russian aggression. In the days ahead, Putin will only continue to double down because Obama has set the precedent that he will do nothing in response. As a result, America’s standing worldwide will be weaker by the day.