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Rubio: Making Putin Pay

Vladi­mir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is a direct challenge and long-term threat to the post-World War II international order for which the United States and our allies have made great sacrifices over the past seven decades. If Putin is allowed to take land from a neighboring nation through deceit and raw military force without serious consequences, the precedent could have global repercussions, including in Asia.

Some have suggested that Crimea is not worth triggering tensions with Russia, given other interests that are more important. While it is best to avoid conflict whenever possible, history shows that illegitimate aggressions that go unchallenged are a virtual guarantee of even more dangerous conflict in the future.

Fortunately, Putin’s illegitimate actions have united the United States and its allies in the free world in opposition. But while the steps taken so far by President Obama and the United States’ European allies are welcome, they clearly will not be enough in the face of a determined Russian effort to forcibly redraw Europe’s borders. Putin’s annexation of Crimea must be met with immediate and meaningful consequences for his regime and those who benefit from it.

First, U.S. financial leverage toward Russia should be used to greater effect. U.S. visa and financial sanctions on Russian officials should be broadened to include Putin and his network of political and business allies. We should work with our partners in Europe to launch an asset-recovery program to identify the spoils of the Russian regime’s corruption, which often are hidden abroad.

Second, we need to diplomatically isolate Russia. Instead of just canceling one summit meeting or technical talks, Russia should be removed immediately from every international forum not essential to resolving this crisis, including the Group of Eight. The NATO-Russia Council should be dissolved. Russian cooperation on global strategic challenges should not be sought until the people of Crimea are given a free and fair opportunity to decide their fate without outside pressure.

Put simply, Russia should no longer be considered a responsible partner on any major international issue. The Russian people should see that Putin’s actions will bring about a decline of Russia’s status as a global power, not a return to supposed Soviet glory.

To this end, Obama should urge U.S. allies to impose an arms embargo on Russia. It is unconscionable that NATO allies would send arms to Moscow even as it violates Ukrainian sovereignty.

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