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It’s time for President Biden to be strong and play all his cards on the table.

In 2014 Russia invaded Crimea, a sovereign Ukrainian territory, and purported to annex that territory. Numerous sanctions have not deterred Russia from its aggression in Ukraine. Americans must understand why we need to defend Ukraine. Is it worth it? Should we care about Ukraine’s safety and independence? For that matter, what do we care about Europe’s sovereignty? We SHOULD care, as our war against Hitler demonstrated. A lot of Americans and allies shed blood to prevent a hostile power from dominating Europe. It is a matter of America’s safety.

As the Russian military threat has grown over the past weeks, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has chosen to confront President Biden, as a NATO leader, and demand that a binding commitment be made that Ukraine will never be permitted to join NATO. Ukraine is now a hostage. Putin implies that the invasion threat will be removed if we give in to Russia’s demands.

Putin’s invasion threat is nothing more than intimidation to achieve his political goals. What are those goals? To split up NATO and to instill insecurity as to America’s resolve among our Eastern Europe allies. This concern was clearly expressed by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas who identified Putin’s wish “to divide Europe into spheres of influence” This intimidation game was exactly what Hitler did when he scared Neville Chamberlain into surrendering Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938. Prime Minister Kallas says “We remember…”.

Recently President Putin wrote an article explaining that Ukraine should not exist as an independent state. His article reveals that Putin’s goal is not Russian security, which is threatened by no one, but to achieve a new Russian European hegemony, as his idea of restoring Russian “greatness.”

If Ukraine falls under Russian domination, the independent countries of East Europe are not safe from Russian military pressure. In fact, no country is safe. Most importantly, if Ukraine is compromised, the United States will surrender its role as an advocate and guarantor of European democracy and safety. This capitulation has worldwide implications, including an impact on the threat to Taiwan from China.

So far, the Biden Administration warns Putin only of economic sanctions. President Biden withdrew sanctions imposed by President Trump on the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Biden Administration gave in on the “New Start” nuclear weapons negotiations. The Biden administration extended that arms control agreement without insisting that Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe be a part of that negotiation. Finally, the Afghanistan catastrophe demonstrated President Biden’s willingness to abandon friends who put their faith in America. What do our European friends think? What do the Russians, or the Chinese, think?

Russians respect strength. When they sense weakness the Russians will pounce. Putin fears NATO. It’s time for NATO to stand up.

From 2019 until 2021 James S. Gilmore III served as United States Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from 2019 to 2021. Mr. Gilmore was the 68th Governor of Virginia.

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