The new US sanctions against Russia announced today by President Obama over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea continue a limited response – a tough signal, but insufficient alone to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggression against Ukraine. The new steps freeze US assets and transactions for twenty more Putin allies, and for a bank of Russia’s top elite. But Putin has deep motivations to extend Russian control into Ukraine, and well beyond Crimea. His essentially uncontested success so far sharpens the need for Ukraine, the United States, and Europe urgently to respond with broader, more concrete steps.
The Ukrainian government should take these steps, with support from the United States and Europe:
- It must continue to quickly mobilize its reserves and build a strong National Guard.
- As a deterrent, it should prepare to create guerrilla forces to be deployed in the event of further incursions by Russia on Ukrainian soil.
- It should block those Russian television stations that are broadcasting the most egregious disinformation and thus fanning panic within the local population in eastern and southern Ukraine.
- It should use its robust security service to arrest ringleaders of increasingly violent provocateurs, and to expel Russian citizens bused into eastern Ukraine to foment protests. This will mean detaining the large number of Russian FSB (security service) and GRU (military intelligence) agents who are mobilizing those protests.
- Government leaders must consider declaring that Russia’s military occupation of Crimea is an act of war under international law. Ukraine should file aggressive international claims for reparations over the violation of its sovereignty.
For their part, the US and Europe should declare that the Russian takeover of Crimea will result in a fundamental reordering of their own economic, political and military approaches in the region.
Initially, these should include: acceleration of joint US, NATO, and Ukraine military training exercises on Ukrainian soil and in the Black Sea; military assistance including anti-air and anti-tank weapons to deter further aggression; technical assistance to resist Russian cyber attacks; intelligence-sharing, to include Russian troop movements; and humanitarian and monitoring missions which place US and European officials in large numbers throughout Ukraine.
In addition, the US and NATO should consider asking Turkey to deny access to the Bosphorus straits for any ships carrying weapons to or from Russia. They should consider cancelling all allied arms contracts with Russia.
US leadership should make clear to Ukraine that the international community will support reparations claims by Ukraine against Russia for any loss of military, infrastructure, property, and territory on Crimean soil. Under Ukrainian law, the land in the country belongs to the state of Ukraine and is only leased for fifty-year terms to landholders. As a result, the material value will be in the tens billions of dollars. In addition, Ukraine and companies such as Italy’s ENI, France’s EDF, and Exxon/Mobil should sue to protect their rights to energy reserves off Crimea’s Black Sea coast, or to receive massive compensation. The US and EU countries should consider targeted legislation to let Ukraine pursue claims against Russian state property in their jurisdictions.
The US should make clear that it will vigorously support Ukraine’s aspiration to full European Union membership and support EU efforts to fast-track approval of its Association Agreement with Ukraine, this to accelerate Ukraine’s political and economic integration into Europe.
The US should reassure Ukraine and its European allies that it will release significant portions of its new shale natural gas potential to replace Russian gas. Toward that end, the administration should authorize the export of natural gas and provide tax incentives for LNG terminals aimed at export to Ukraine and Europe. And the US should announce it will support the EU in shutting down the South Stream pipeline project across the Black Sea, which is meant to export Russian gas to southern Europe.
In the longer term, the most effective response to Putin will be to ensure that Ukraine thrives, and not just survives. Some progress is being made. The US and Europe have announced a significant aid package. Ukraine’s citizens as well as their elected leaders, including the majority of legislators from the former ruling Party of Regions, have consolidated around the new government and displayed unity in the face of Russian belligerence. In Ukraine there is a strong spirit of national resolve and a fierce determination to resist any further Russian aggression. Moreover, Ukraine’s people have been a model of moderation and pragmatism.
Ukrainian authorities, too, have shown remarkable restraint in the face of Russia’s invasion and provocations. Thus far, Ukraine’s armed forces have adopted Gandhian tactics of civic nonviolence, including peaceful marches against the Russian occupation forces. But excessive caution is a mistake.
Unlike Gandhi’s foe, Mr. Putin is not a British viceroy. Ukraine will need to show it has teeth if it is to deter further attacks, including a Russia-armed and -aided new Crimean military, which will be used to menace Ukraine’s mainland as well as Georgia and Moldova.
Russia’s formal annexation of Crimea, plus continued Russian-sponsored violence in eastern Ukraine, underline the dangers that Ukraine now faces – of military and covert attack from Russia, of a massive Russian economic and energy blockade, and of military actions by Russia’s newly-installed regime in Crimea. Working together, Ukraine, Europe and the United States must make unmistakably clear to President Putin that, should his aggression persist, he and Russia will pay a huge price.
Adrian Karatnycky, is a senior fellow on transatlantic relations at the Atlantic Council and served as the president of Freedom House.