Photo credit: Kay Nietfeld

Photo credit: Kay Nietfeld

In what is best described as blatant disregard of Ukraine’s national sovereignty, Russian troops continue to occupy key sites across the Crimean Peninsula. What’s next: Russia has announced an illegitimate referendum on Sunday giving the people of Crimea a vote to determine whether they want to join the Russian Federation.

Ukraine is an independent country. Its people voted overwhelmingly (90 percent in favor) to declare independence from Russia in 1991. Sunday’s vote is illegal—it is merely Russia’s attempt to justify its imperial annexation of part of a neighboring country.

>>> Learn more about Ukraine: Population, freedom profile, history, government

Moscow will likely engineer the results of the vote anyway. This referendum should not fool anyone, and the international community should recognize Russia’s behavior for what it is: a direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Recent events have confirmed what many already knew: President Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia is dead. Obama cannot ignore what is happening in Eastern Europe and hope that it will simply disappear. Russians respect strength and consistency, neither of which has been displayed by the president or his European counterparts.

The Ukrainian people need the U.S. to stand firmly in their corner. Just a few things the president and Congress should be doing right now:

Stop holding aid to Ukraine hostage to politics. Ukraine needs aid now. But the White House is trying to use this as an opportunity to pass a “reform package” for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that has been pending for three years. Congress should refuse the Obama Administration’s attempt to link urgent assistance to Ukraine to these other political games.

Enact sanctions on Russia. Washington should implement targeted sanctions aimed directly at Russian officials responsible for violating Ukrainian sovereignty, including freezing financial assets and imposing visa bans.

Withdraw immediately from a useless treaty. New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a fundamentally flawed treaty that dramatically undercuts the security of the U.S. and its allies. It is an extraordinarily good deal for the Russians, as it significantly limits Washington’s ability to deploy an effective global missile defense system. It does nothing at all to advance U.S. security while handing Moscow a significant strategic edge. The U.S. needs a strong missile defense to protect our interests and those of our European allies.

Our NATO allies are nervous—not to mention the Ukrainian people with Russian troops on their doorstep. The world needs America to step up.

See more things the U.S. should be doing.

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