As a new Cold War looms, it's time to stand up to Russian provocations

Opinion,Op-Eds,Russia,Foreign Aid,National Security,Darrell Issa,Foreign Policy,Cold War

Recently, Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated relations between the U.S. and Russia have reached Cold War levels.

Are we seeing the potential start of a new Cold War with an aggressive and resurgent Russia?

Recent events should put the world on notice. The takedown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine is yet another escalation in this already tense standoff between a group of Russian-backed separatists being supplied with heavy arms and training and the rightfully elected government of Ukraine.

These types of attacks happen when a powerful country with defunct moral leadership gives modern and potent weapons to people trying to wreak havoc. Russia either does not have control over the separatists they are supplying, or is choosing to turn a blind eye. Both are unacceptable.

Russia has allowed innocents to die because of these actions and more are at risk if this is left unchecked. There must be repercussions for this heinous and senseless act. The international community must speak with one voice and the United States must stand tall with our allies.

The attack on a civilian plane comes on the heels of the spring offensive by Russian President Vladimir Putin to illegally annex the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. We saw Russia aggressively take Crimea from Ukraine without a shot fired. Our nation and allies spoke judgingly at the time but did next to nothing in response, further empowering Russia to act wantonly without fear of repercussion.

President Obama’s command of the situation is in question. In March 2012 Obama signaled his true intentions for the region in an overheard gaffe to then-President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. He said he needed space to handle some of the more contentious issues that were facing the Russian-American relationship, implying he was acting in a certain way, taking a hard line, to look strong before the election and perhaps he would act differently afterward. Russia and the world read it correctly as signaling a changing and a weakening of U.S. foreign policy.

It reminds me of the events following the end of World War II. The West allowed Poland and East Germany, among others, to be dominated by the Soviet Union. They became communist satellites and part of the larger Soviet Empire. Their people were subjugated, not given the choice to determine their own future, forced to live in fear and under the control of the Soviet Union.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)
We must not allow history to repeat itself. We can stop this same virulent Russian expansionism that we saw then from happening now, if we are willing to act. We should not tolerate one nation bullying another simply because one is stronger than the other. Make no mistake, if these actions are tolerated by the West, it will only entice Russia and other expansionist minded nations to act more aggressively.

To date, our nation has talked much and done little to address Russia’s bullying of Ukraine and the region. By not acting, by not projecting strength and commitment to our allies and friends, we are inviting a resurgence of Russia in an aggressive way.

While it may be inconvenient in an election year for Obama to have to acknowledge that his foreign policy positions have not stabilized the world, an honest assessment of what has happened is critically important. We are sending the wrong signals to Russia by not acting with strength, the lawless actions of Putin show us the consequences.

History teaches us that evil spreads when the nations of the world shrink from aggression rather than face it and act decisively to repel it.

When a country refuses to respect the sovereignty of another, arms separatists, and fosters a civil war leading to not just the murder of 298 civilians on an airliner but thousands of Ukrainian casualties, one owns those murders. There is no way around that simple and horrible fact.

Blood is on your hands, Mr. Putin.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
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