Russia’s annexation of Crimea should prompt Europe to react

European Union leaders can’t be blind to the reality that the time for talking tough about sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea has now passed.

They must act immediately to let President Vladimir Putin and his circle of henchmen know that the violation of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation, Ukraine, will not be permitted.

Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the fraudulent referendum over the weekend in which voters backed secession, and Russia’s appropriation of the region and its vital naval port, Sevastopol, have triggered recollections in Europe and the United States about the old Soviet Union and the Cold War.

President Putin insists his country is simply respecting the wishes of the people of Crimea, most of whom are Russian-speaking. But Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, European Union leaders and President Barack Obama are of one mind when it comes to what has taken place.

Turchynov made it clear Tuesday that Ukraine will never accept the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and does not give any credence to the results of the referendum.

“Our land will never be torn away,” the acting president said. “The Ukrainian people and the entire civilized world will never recognize the annexation of Ukrainian land.”

But how the civilized world reacts to Russia’s violation of international law will speak volumes. Thus far, Putin and others in the Kremlin have thumbed their noses at the economic sanctions that have been imposed by the Obama administration and the European Union.

Indeed, leaders of the 28-nation organization meeting in Brussels today are having to face the reality that the economic well-being of their countries could be affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia.

Putin is not above turning the screws, especially when it comes to supplying energy to the Europeans. Indeed, the threat of an energy crisis has caused many countries in Europe to be less aggressive in imposing sanctions than the United States.

As the New York Times reported Tuesday, when Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, was asked whether the EU had failed to match words with strong actions, he replied: “The U.S. is from Mars, and Europe is from Venus. Get used to it.”

Sikorski’s play on the title of the bestselling book, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” brings to mind another title, this one of a popular movie: “Back to the Future.” That’s what should concern Europe if Russia isn’t stopped in its track.

American lives, money

EU leaders cannot expect the U.S. to take the lead on the issue. Despite Republican criticism of President Obama’s handling of the situation, the fact remains that the American people don’t want this country to be involved in another foreign excursion. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll in American lives and money. The tepid recovery of the national economy has forced many Americans to look inward.

As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United States has an obligation to respond in whatever way necessary if fellow members are threatened by Russia. Ukraine, on the other hand, is a NATO partner, not a member, and thus does not enjoy the protections that membership provides.

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