Russian President Putin's military aggression against Ukraine sounds the death knell for the Obama administration's policy of reset with Russia. Contrary to critics' assertions, the reset did yield tangible results such as the Northern Distribution Network, which has facilitated the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Russian votes at the United Nations with the U.S. on Iran and North Korea. Recently the reset had frayed badly, and Putin's Anschluss of Crimea and possibly eastern Ukraine now not only buries it, but also profoundly alters the entire post- Cold War European political landscape. Putin has already totally disregarded President Obama's call for withdrawal of Russian forces. How should the U.S. react?
Military intervention is out of the question. Ukraine, while a friend, is not an ally; in fact, it has pulled back from its earlier candidacy for NATO membership. Moreover, Moscow possesses geostrategic military advantages that would be difficult to counter, short of using nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, Russia's blatant violation of international law must be resisted with all available diplomatic, economic, and political means. The Obama Administration has already indicated that it is prepared to cancel its participation in the upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi and to impose personal financial sanctions and travel bans on Russian officials complicit in the attack on Ukraine. These are worthwhile steps, which should be taken, but they are not enough. The following additional ten measures, none of which alone would impel a change in Putin's actions, but if taken together would offer the possibility of reining in the unprovoked Russian aggression and deter Putin from similar moves elsewhere on Russia's western borders:
· Save Ukraine from economic collapse. Together with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, immediately put together an emergency financial rescue package for Kyiv. Conditionality is important, but it can be discussed after the military threat has passed.
· Reassure nervous NATO allies in the region where Putin's aggression has reawakened bitter historical memories. In 1939 Poland was carved up by Stalin and Hitler by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- with sizeable Russian minorities see in Putin's cynical tactics in Ukraine a replay of Stalin's extinguishing of their independence and annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940. Romania is acutely aware of Russia's ongoing manipulation of the Slavic population of Moldova' breakaway Transnistria. And everyone remembers Russia's years-long aiding and abetting separatism in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which led to war with Georgia in 2008. NATO should underline its Article 5 collective defense guarantee by stationing alliance troops on the Baltic states' borders with Russia, and if Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania deem it advisable, on those countries' borders with Ukraine.
· Together with our European allies if possible, impose broad economic sanctions on Russia, expressly reversible if it withdraws its forces to behind Ukraine's internationally recognized borders.
· Exclude Russia from the U.S. banking system, including installing asset freezes, a measure which would severely damage the Russian financial system.
· Ramp up production of U.S. natural gas for export in order to undercut Russia's economic leverage on Western Europe.
· Together with the U.K., and France introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council, calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Moscow would, of course, veto the resolution, but calling Russia to task before the court of world opinion has value. It would also test China's devotion to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states.
· Move to replace Russia in the G-8 with China, a country whose economy is more than five times larger and far more internationally competitive than Russia's.
· Move to suspend Russia from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as was done with Serbia when it launched its Balkan wars in the 1990s.
· Block Russia's application to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
· Enter into serious discussions about NATO membership with Sweden, where recent polls have shown an increase in sentiment for joining the alliance, and Finland, whose memories of Russian aggression in the Winter War are indelibly stamped into the national psyche. For several years both countries have played important partner roles in NATO operations, including the Libyan air campaign in Sweden's case. Putin's attack on Ukraine should serve as a wake-up call to those Swedes and Finns who cling to the belief that their neutrality will protect them from a rogue neighbor.
Vladimir Putin with a KGB inculcated zero-sum mentality must be made to understand that his naked aggression against Ukraine will result in a net-minus to Russia's geopolitical ledger.
Michael Haltzel is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. From 1995 to 2004 he was European foreign policy advisor to Vice President (then-Senator) Joseph R. Biden, Jr.