How should we respond to Russia's aggression against Ukraine?
Our reaction should be guided by the following principles.
Goals, Principles, and Practical Considerations:
1. Ukraine is an independent country, not a region. Its name is "Ukraine," not "the Ukraine."
2. The Ukrainian people have the right to choose their own leaders in democratic elections free of foreign interference.
3. Russia had a valid historic claim to the Crimean Peninsula and other portions of western Ukraine which belonged to Russia for centuries, and many Russians still consider these areas to be part of their country. However, Russia ceded any lawful claims to those lands in 1994 in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. Ukraine's territorial sovereignty must be respected and restored. Russian troops must be withdrawn.
4. Russia has a vital interest in retaining its naval port in Sevastopol -- an interest that it will fight to protect, and that it has a right to under a treaty with Ukraine. That right, too, must be respected.
5. Neither the United States nor Europe is willing to fight a war against Russia over Ukraine.
6. The United States and Europe -- particularly Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Hungary -- identify with the Ukrainian people and are willing to make substantial sacrifices to help them institute a democracy and win independence from Russian domination.
7. Ukraine is utterly dependent on Russia for all its energy needs. Europe as well derives much of its energy from the importation of natural gas from Russia.
8. No boycott or other economic sanctions against Russia can succeed unless Europe and Ukraine can be supplied with energy from sources other than Russia.
9. To some extent, Russia seeks international approval and acceptance, as witnessed in its proud hosting of the Winter Olympics and its quest for membership in the G-7 (now G-8).
10. In the past, Russia has supported the terrorist regimes in Iran, Syria, and North Korea, although recently that support has weakened and wavered, and Russia has permitted international sanctions to be enforced against those countries. Those sanctions cannot be effective without Russia's cooperation. Russia has the capacity to greatly strengthen and embolden those countries, to the extent that they could possibly acquire nuclear weapons.
Strategy and Tactics
11. The only reasonable option for action against Russia is economic sanctions, such as a boycott.
12. Europe will have to purchase enormous amounts of gas and oil, no doubt from the Middle East, to replace Russian imports.
13. There will have to be massive investment in Europe in both transportation facilities as well as refining capacity to make up for the shortfall caused by the boycott.
14. To permit Europe to increase its purchases of energy from the Middle East the United States will have to reduce its purchases from that region and increase purchases from other regions.
15. The oil and gas exporters must be persuaded to sell more without raising per unit prices.
16. The boycott will cost tens of billions of dollars. This is still far less expensive than fighting a war. Furthermore, while we are very unlikely to win a war against Russia, it is very unlikely that Russia would win an economic contest against the United States and Europe.
17. If we demonstrate seriousness and solidarity about a boycott, while at the same time offering to guarantee Russian access to its Black Sea port, Russia is likely to quickly fold, and the expenditure of billions to create an alternative source of energy for Europe may be avoided. But we must be ready to carry through with the threat of economic sanctions.
18. In the United States, our seriousness will be demonstrated by the adoption of a tax increase which would be used to purchase energy from sources other than the Middle East as well as subsidize Ukraine's purchase of energy from sources other than Russia. This tax would automatically terminate when the crisis eases.
19. The rest of the world must not only demonstrate solidarity against Russia, but against its allied regimes in North Korea, Syria, and Iran. Although the United States will not fight Russia over Ukraine, it will not allow any of those countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and war with those countries may be necessary if Russia encourages them to re-arm.