It's not good enough to say the United States can do nothing to help Ukraine and deter Russia from future bullying and aggression. While we cannot overcome six years of errors in a day, we are only as powerless as we want to be.
Here are 10 ways we can start to do better.
1. Issue a presidential-congressional declaration stating we support a sovereign and united Ukraine. When the Soviet Union overran the Baltic nations in 1939, the U.S. refused to recognize the Russian conquest. A declaration would show similar U.S. commitment to support Ukraine longterm.
2. Pass a clean aid bill for Ukraine. Aid is being held back by the Obama administration's desire to force through a contentious package of so-called reforms for the International Monetary Fund. End the games, and pass the aid.
3. Focus the 2014 NATO Summit on Russia. Britain hosts the gathering in September. Invite no Russian observers. Abandon the empty NATO concept of "smart defense," which has been used to justify defense cuts. Return NATO to its core mission: protecting members from Russian threats.
4. Increase forces in Europe to make it clear we are committed to its extended defense. This would make a clear statement on the U.S. military posture in Europe. The administration has wavered about the size of the U.S. commitment in Europe, but the overall direction has been downward. The European periphery is too unstable for that.
5. Deploy a robust ballistic missile defense in Europe. In 2009, the administration canceled a NATO-approved missile defense system in Eastern Europe to "reset" relations with Russia. The system focused on Iran, not Russia, and the reset has failed. We must uphold existing missile defense commitments to our European allies.
6. No excuses for Russian nuclear weapons treaty violations. There are credible allegations that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It certainly has violated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which promised Ukraine territorial integrity in exchange for giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons. With nuclear weapons, two strikes are enough. We should withdraw from the New START Treaty, which limits our ability to deploy an effective missile defense system and does not restrain the Russians.
7. Abandon embarrassments such as the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission. The announcement of the commission remains on the State Department's website. Its reference to our shared respect for "core principles of friendship, cooperation, openness, and predictability" sounds pathetic.
8. Use the U.S. Treasury to target illicit Russian funds. The calm reaction of the Russian markets to U.S. sanctions shows they are weak. Tougher ones are needed. Dirty Russian money flows through loosely regulated foreign banks, and the U.S. should put the squeeze on Vladimir Putin's cronies by cracking down on those systems. Any assets seized should be donated to Ukraine.
9. Stop U.S. energy protectionism. Ukraine -- and Europe -- need energy. Thanks to fracking, we are an energy superpower. The physical infrastructure will take years to build, but we can take steps by changing our legal structures to allow the export of natural gas to Europe.
10. Refute Russian lies. Under Putin, Russia has regained its Soviet-era mastery of propaganda, fake elections and provocations. Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to clearly and repeatedly tell the truth.
The administration's effort to reset relations with Russia was a mistake, but we gave it an honest try. Now we are being treated like patsies. While we can't save Ukraine today, we can stop pretending Putin wants to be our friend, and start imposing costs on his regime.
- Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.
Originally appeared in Long Island Newsday