The United States and NATO should leave all options on the table to counter Russian military aggression in Ukraine. The U.S. and NATO should reject Russian demands to limit NATO’s actions in the former Soviet states that are now part of NATO. The U.S. and NATO should also reject Russian demands and retain the option of admitting Ukraine to NATO in the future.

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Since WW II, the world has been relatively free of significant military aggression to seize territory, with the notable exception of Russia taking the Crimean region of Ukraine and the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia. We believe that this has been the case largely because the United States has maintained a global military advantage and has signaled a willingness to use it. There is now a significant threat that Russia will use military force to seize territory in Ukraine and possibly annex all of Ukraine.

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990 may well have been triggered by a U.S. diplomat, inadvertently, signaling to Saddam Hussein that the United States would not oppose the invasion. A similarly weak response from the U.S. and NATO to Russia’s preparations for the invasion of the Crimean region may have played a role there. The West needs to be clear that further Russian aggression against Ukraine will not be tolerated. No options should be off the table. The U.S. and NATO should refuse to consider Russian proposals to prohibit NATO from stationing troops or weapons systems in the former Soviet states that are now part of NATO. The U.S. and NATO should also reject Russian demands to permanently exclude Ukraine from NATO membership. Russia’s recent actions have forcefully demonstrated that it should be viewed as a belligerent state. Appeasement will only whet Putin’s appetite for further military aggression against all of the former Soviet states.

The Russian demand to limit NATO’s expansion into Ukraine is particularly outrageous. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, in order to seize the Crimean region, despite agreeing, in 1994, to accept Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for Ukraine transferring its nuclear weapons to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. The U.S. and the UK were also parties to this 1994 agreement.

If Russia has any hope of slowing NATO’s expansion, a non-negotiable guid-pro-quo for any such agreement should be for Russia to withdraw from all of Ukraine, including the Crimea and Donbas regions, compensate Ukraine for the devastation Russia’s invasion has caused and withdraw from the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia. Otherwise, the case for NATO expansion to prevent further Russian military aggression is incontrovertible.

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