New U.S. sanctions are coming, and they are a good start.

Russia’s moves in recent days to amass troops at the border and deploy navy landing ships and gunboats to the Black Sea have sparked debate among experts about whether Vladimir Putin is truly preparing to escalate his country’s seven-year conflict against Ukraine or simply mounting a defiant show — for his own people, or for the new U.S. administration, which is preparing to enact harsh new sanctions.

Either way, preventing the Russian leader from pursuing a reckless course as he did in 2014, when his military forces illegally seized Crimea and started a war in another part of eastern Ukraine that continues today, will requiredecisive action from President Biden.

Allowing a new Russian incursion would not only strike another blow to the fledgling democracy, it would destabilize the global order at a time when the world is facing the twin disasters of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. It would also send a dangerous message to other countries that land grabs will be tolerated and democracies will not be protected.

Biden has already taken a good first step by shipping additional military assistance to Ukraine, and Turkey has said the United States is planning to deploy U.S. naval forces to the Black Sea, according to Reuters. Biden has also clearly stated that the United States stands by Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And sanctions are no doubt coming. Officials have been conducting intelligence assessments of specific instances of the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy and international lawbreaking, already issuing new sanctions over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. More reviews centering on its interference in the 2020 elections, the massive SolarWinds cyberattack and the bounties placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan are reportedly finished or nearly completed.

But there is more Biden can do using military assistance and the threat of additional sanctions.

Starting in 2014, the United States and its NATO allies began a program of military assistance to Ukraine. When I was at the Pentagon, my office developed options for President Barack Obama focusing primarily on helping the Ukrainian armed forces defend their land borders with equipment and training.

Later, in the aftermath of a dramatic blockade and kidnapping of Ukrainian naval forces, the United States also gavesome attention to bolstering Ukraine’s maritime defense capability. Now, the U.S. government can turn its attention to improving Ukraine’s air force, which was already outdated before Russian attacks on Ukrainian aircraft.

If Russia gets its way despite the will of the Ukrainian people and international law, Putin will be emboldened to seek to continue spreading his corrupt political, military and economic influence to former Soviet countries and beyond. He will undoubtedly test NATO resolve, most likely in the Baltics.

An attack or incursion into a NATO state requires a collective military response according to the alliance’s founding treaty. We must avoid such a situation, one where we would face a far greater danger of escalation than the one we face in Ukraine today.

Source – The Washington Post