Today we can confirm that Russia has sent troops into the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had warned Russia not to invade Ukraine, and Putin decided not to obey. Of course, it doesn’t help our moral, political high ground much that the United States has recently invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan, two sovereign nations far from our borders. Kerry said that any Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “a grave mistake” and he’s right. It would also be a grave mistake for the United States or NATO to respond with any show of military force.
This news is brand new and it’s the weekend so the political and media response so far is fairly muted, but just as spring returns every year, a few of our more hawkish politicians and pundits are already calling for some strong, possibly military, response. Sen. John McCain is suggesting the placing of U.S. missiles in the Czech Republic. William Krystal of The Weekly Standard says how about “a move toward a security relationship with Ukraine.” Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas opines that Russia’s entering Ukraine is much like Hitler’s invasion of Austria so what are we going to do about it? James F. Jeffrey of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former deputy national security adviser for Pres. George W. Bush thinks putting NATO forces at the Polish-Ukrainian border would be prudent. As time goes on, and especially if Russia expands its military presence in Ukraine, there is likely to be more and louder calls for U.S. and NATO military action.
Far more prudent than even contemplating any military response would be diplomatic and economic support for Ukraine coupled with economic sanctions and United Nations pressure on Russia. As the NY Times points out, there isn’t really all that much the U.S. and Europe can do that Russia can’t handle. But whatever we do, we must not escalate the violence in Ukraine.