Russia’s actions in Ukraine also trouble Americans because of their implications for NATO allies and the United States’ common defense responsibilities. If Putin concludes that there are no serious consequences for aggression, he may yet step up pressure against Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all with substantial Russian minorities and members of NATO since 2004. Military action against those countries would obligate the United States to respond militarily along with other NATO member states. The best way to avoid such a scenario is to act now in support of sovereignty in Ukraine. Failure to do so will tempt Putin to keep pushing until he encounters meaningful resistance.
How the United States responds to aggression in Crimea will also send an important signal to other states throughout the world. When the United States warns that it will impose severe costs on aggressors, does it keep its word?
American unity regarding Ukraine also has to do with freedom. Our country proudly supported a democratic movement that challenged a corrupt and increasingly abusive government. The invasion of Crimea was a blatant attempt to punish the people of Ukraine for daring to demand honest government independent of Moscow.
Former U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), are co-chairs of the American Internationalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute.