Ukraine — an opportunity and also a test

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, April 1, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

As the situation in Ukraine has unfolded over the past weeks, I have watched closely as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. I am gravely concerned with developments that continue to expose this Administration’s dangerously anemic foreign policy. Ukraine is a sovereign nation whose people have demonstrated a strong desire to align themselves with the West. Yet today, we stand on the precipice of losing this nation to the growing influence of Moscow.

I am discouraged that the President has not acted more forcefully to protect these people from the expanding power of Vladimir Putin in the region, projecting timidity in the face of Moscow’s strength. Bullies like Putin do not respond to simple rhetoric. A series of actions, including President Obama’s acquiescence on a missile defense program in Poland, and inability to make progress in Syria or Iran, have caused Putin to judge us as weak. He is taking advantage of a perceived opportunity to capitalize on a listless American foreign policy, and so far, he is succeeding.

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I strongly believe the United States can and should do more to ensure that Russia does not continue to expand its sphere of influence in this region. That is why I was proud to support the Ukraine Support Act. This package is a mixture of foreign aid for the people of Ukraine and sanctions that target the Russian economy and its leaders. This is a positive step forward. It sends a message to Putin and the Ukrainian people that Congress firmly backs the democratic process in Ukraine and opposes any meddling from Moscow.

The situation in Ukraine is an opportunity for the United States to assert ourselves on the world stage as the beacon of democracy that we are. The people of Ukraine are with us. Vladimir Putin will continue to test our resolve, but we must rise to the challenge. Moving forward, I will work with my colleagues to promote policies that protect the people of Ukraine and our interests in the region, and place a check on the expanding power of Putin.

Bradley Byrne is the U.S. representative for the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.