Last week, President Obama signed into law an aid package that will send $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. While these loan guarantees will help stabilize Ukraine in the short term, the U.S. must develop a new long-term strategic approach to the region where Russia is viewed as an adversary rather than a partner. While Russia has not yet moved to invade the rest of Ukraine, the situation remains volatile. The past few days, pro-Russian protestors attacked and occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine and incited unrest. Ukrainian authorities have launched operations to regain control of key local government buildings in the region. Russia may use the unrest as an excuse for further military invasions into Ukraine. According to NATO’s top commander General Breedlove, 40,000 Russian troops still surround the remainder of Ukraine and they could attack on as little as 12 hours’ notice.
Russia might continue to utilize asymmetrical tools such as coercion, propaganda, and economic warfare against Ukraine, including tripling the price of natural gas in only three days. Russia could also choose to militarily invade the remainder of Ukraine. Either way, the U.S. should be taking measures now that will mitigate the risk that Russia escalates the crisis in Eastern Europe further, as The Heritage Foundation wrote in a recent issue brief:
“Further Russian escalation, however, risks a wider war that could destabilize the transatlantic alliance. The U.S. should mitigate this risk even as it establishes a new long-term strategy to deal with a hostile and aggressive Russian regime.”
Examples of steps the U.S. can take to mitigate the risk of further Russian aggression include announcing expanded training exercises with NATO partner countries, reiterating a commitment to NATO’s Article V, and immediately look into updating the defense contingency plans for Central and Eastern Europe.
Should Russia commence a further invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has immediate, strong reactions it can take in response. While the U.S. can raise the costs of further Russian aggression against Ukraine, ultimately, a new strategic plan needs to be created and implemented in advance of U.S. strategic interests in the region. The Russian reset is dead, and the sooner the U.S. embraces reality, the better.