On Ukraine, more must be done

Editor’s Note: Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former U.S. ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. He was just named as one of nine U.S. lawmakers banned from Russia in retaliation for new U.S. sanctions.

Story highlights

Sen. Dan Coats argues that recent sanctions against Russia are not enough

U.S., EU actions following the Crimea occupation won't deter Putin, he says

We are ignoring the lessons of history, Coats says

CNN  — 

In response to Russia’s invasion and annexation of parts of Ukraine, President Obama this week announced new sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials.

These sanctions, issued in concert with similar announcements by the European Union, are wildly disproportionate. Disproportionately small, that is.

We are ignoring the lessons of history that demonstrate how unusual and unacceptable invasion and annexation are in the post-World War II era.

Russia has unleashed a process of domination and annexation that will lead to territorial acquisition by force. Although this has been roundly condemned rhetorically by many world leaders, including our own, the paltry international response thus far indicates that this aggression is not being taken seriously enough.

Sen. Dan Coats

We do not live in a Napoleonic age when force of arms determines boarders. The United Nations has codified the modern view of the international community – a view that utterly rejects ancient practices of conquest by force.

Further, forceful international reaction to banditry like that of Russian President Vladimir Putin provides the opportunity to reinforce the new norm and the strength of feeling followed by the commitment to enforce it.

The sanctions announced by the Obama administration and our European allies not only fail to measure up to those new standards, but this rap on a few knuckles will surely encourage the Russian aggressors and alarm its neighbors.

There are no more than 20 instances of attempted aggression, invasion and annexation since the end of World War II. North Vietnam’s conquest of South Vietnam in 1975 followed two decades of war attempting to resist it. Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1975, leading to two decades of guerrilla war and eventual independence. The international community never recognized the annexation, and vigorous UN peacekeeping and engagement was critical to solution.

Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara has led to almost 40 years of war and continuous international efforts at negotiation. The invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1990 led to a massive international effort to reverse that move, involving a half million American troops. Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 was met with full-fledged naval warfare by the forces of the United Kingdom.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and imminent territorial annexation must be viewed in this historical context. The bogus referendum this past weekend fools no one.

The international response so far is to deny visas to a small group of Russian officials and deny them access to whatever property they have stashed abroad. This simply is not enough.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and I introduced a resolution earlier this month outlining specific steps we believe the administration should take to sanction and isolate Russia. The full Senate unanimously supported that resolution, yet the administration has chosen to take none of these steps.

Last week I asked Secretary of State John Kerry if the State Department is considering any of the recommendations we put forward, ideas backed by all 100 United States Senators. His reply was dismissive and nonresponsive.

Sanctioning a handful of Russians most responsible for this aggression is a good first step, but too little to influence a change in the Russian position.

Much more needs to be done. There is strong bipartisan support for more forceful economic sanctions than what the administration announced on Monday. We must take more meaningful – and more properly proportionate – steps to respond to this outrage of aggression.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sen. Dan Coats.