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Foreign Policy Initiative: Open Letter to President Obama -- Secure Ukraine, Isolate Russia, and Strengthen NATO

Published March 21, 2014

The Foreign Policy Initiative organized fifty-two former U.S. government officials and foreign policy experts to sign a bipartisan letter to President Obama regarding policy to respond to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Dear Mr. President:

As Russia moves ahead with its illegal annexation of Crimea, we share your determination to "isolate Russia for its actions and to reassure our allies and partners." America's next steps should be designed to strengthen Ukraine's sovereignty and democratic transition, to impose real costs on the government of President Vladimir Putin, and to enhance the deterrence posture of NATO.

Russia's invasion of Crimea threatens the democracy that the Ukrainian people have sacrificed so much to achieve. A critical test of Ukraine's newfound freedom will be its presidential elections on May 25, which Russia may seek to disrupt. As you have noted, Russia must recognize "the rights of all Ukrainians to determine their future as free individuals, and as a sovereign nation." In order to help Ukraine secure its democratic transition, the United States should:

  • Provide Ukraine's transitional government with technical expertise, international monitors, and other assistance for the May presidential election. The United States should also enhance support for the civil institutions that are necessary to consolidate Ukraine's democratic gains.
  • Approve loan guarantees to help stabilize the Ukrainian economy, while working with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and other partners to provide long-term support for economic reforms in Ukraine.
  • Conduct an assessment of Ukraine's self-defense needs and expand the scope and scale of U.S. military assistance available to the government of Ukraine, including intelligence sharing, training, and other support for Ukrainian forces, in coordination with NATO and the European Union.

Washington and its international partners should also impose real costs on Vladimir Putin and his key supporters. In this effort, we must distinguish between the corrupt regime surrounding Putin, and the Russian people who are the victims of his misrule. In this regard, it is essential to fully utilize the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 and other legal authorities to sanction gross human rights violators in Russia. The United States should:

  • Increase the number of Russian officials who are subject to sanctions, including President Putin and those closest to him, both for their role in the invasion of Ukraine and the gross violations of human rights described under the Magnitsky Act.
  • Expand the scope of sanctions in order to isolate Russian financial institutions and businesses that are either complicit in Russia's invasion in Ukraine or support the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The designation of Bank Rossiya is an important first step in this effort.
  • Expose the extent of political and economic corruption among the senior leadership of the Russian Federation, including an unclassified report on the assets of President Putin and other senior Russian officials.
  • Suspend all civil nuclear cooperation pursuant to the "123" Agreement that was entered into force between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2010.

Russia's intervention in Ukraine poses a threat to all its neighbors, including our NATO allies among the Baltic States and Poland. We believe that the United States and its NATO partners must reexamine commitments under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act to refrain from deploying additional forces into former Warsaw Pact countries, as Russia's recent actions demonstrate that the "current and foreseeable security environment" described in the Act has changed. In this regard, the United States should:

  • Conduct an assessment on how to strengthen NATO's deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia, including the deployment of additional ground forces, missile defenses, or other assets to former Warsaw Pact members of NATO. Your deployment of U.S. fighter aircraft to Poland and the Baltic States is an important first step in this regard.
  • Press America's NATO allies to agree to a Membership Action Plan for Georgia at the NATO Summit scheduled for September 2014, while expanding U.S. military rotations to Georgia. The United States should also support Ukraine, Sweden, Finland, and other European security partners, if they seek NATO membership.
  • Work to reduce European dependence on Russian natural gas, including by expanding liquefied natural gas exports from the United States, as well as supporting new pipelines into the Continent and other proposals to diversify Europe's energy supplies, such as developing indigenous natural gas reserves.

We believe that these responsible steps will be essential to secure Ukraine's future, to deter the Putin government from further acts of aggression, and to strengthen the NATO alliance and other security partnerships. We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to supporting you in taking these measures.


Dr. Michael Auslin James Kirchick
Dan Blumenthal David Kramer
Ambassador John R. Bolton William Kristol
Max Boot Dr. Robert J. Lieber
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Senator Norm Coleman Tod Lindberg
Ambassador William Courtney Mary Beth Long
Seth Cropsey Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken
Jack David Robert C. McFarlane
Dr. Larry Diamond Thomas C. Moore
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky Dr. Joshua Muravchik
Thomas Donnelly Andrew S. Natsios
Dr. Colin Dueck Governor Tim Pawlenty
Dr. Nicholas N. Eberstadt Dr. Martin Peretz
Ambassador Eric S. Edelman Danielle Pletka
Douglas J. Feith Arch Puddington
Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin Daniel F. Runde
Reuel Marc Gerecht Randy Scheunemann
Christopher J. Griffin Dr. Gary J. Schmitt
General Michael Hayden Dan Senor
Dr. William C. Inboden Vance Serchuk
Ash Jain Dr. Daniel Twining
Dr. Kenneth D. M. Jensen Ambassador Kurt Volker
Ambassador Robert G. Joseph Dr. Kenneth R. Weinstein
Dr. Frederick W. Kagan Leon Wieseltier
Craig Kennedy Robert Zarate
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