The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 19, 2014

Our View: U.S. must use NATO against Russia

Why it matters: NATO was designed to thwart egregious aggression by countries that would threaten peace in Europe

President Barack Obama, taking an important signal from U.S. citizens, did not and should not make any commitment for the U.S. to intervene militarily against Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

But he should do the next best thing: put pressure on Putin through sanctions and support our NATO alliances.

In fact NATO, now 28 nations strong, was born in response to the same kind of unilateral aggression that started World War II. It should now push back at the naked aggression that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems ready and willing to impose at will or on a whim.

While there are those who can criticize Obama’s response so far, the president has importantly sent top officials of his administration including Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to the region to re-assure our NATO allies we will back them up and face down the Russian aggression in person.

NATO allies like Poland have asked for a show of support. In response, the U.S. recently sent 300 air troops and a dozen F-16 fighters to conduct NATO exercises. Obama has frozen the assets of 21 leaders in Russia and Crimea said to have a role in the recent secession.

Biden will be meeting with other NATO allies who have borders with Russia, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Great Britain has agreed to assist as well with military training and support.

Biden will also be discussing Europe’s long-term energy needs, as many now rely on Russia heavily for its natural gas. This may put pressure on the U.S. to allow more exports of natural gas.

Putin for his part seems to suggest the quick secession of Crimea was a small and justified matter. But NATO should not be lulled into complacency with that seemingly logical but weak argument. Borders should not be re-arranged by some supposed majority of good feeling toward Mother Russia.

The rule of law and international law should prevail. The U.S. has an alliance in NATO that can assure that happens, but as Biden argues, it may need to grow stronger now that threats from Russia a very real.

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