Vindman: US has been 'fickle' in its friendship with Ukraine

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Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said that Washington's friendship with Ukraine has been too "fickle," and called for the United States to support the Eastern European country militarily and economically amid the Russian troop buildup along its border.

In a New York Times opinion piece published Friday, Vindman laid out how he believed that the U.S. could "break" Russian President Vladimir Putin's "hold" on Ukraine.

The former National Security Council official said that an announcement from President Biden made this week that the U.S. is prepared to invoke punishing sanctions on Russia, should the country invade Ukraine, would not be enough to deter Putin.

"To shift Mr. Putin's calculus, it is imperative that the Biden administration's policy toward Ukraine change both tactically and strategically to demonstrate a more active level of U.S. engagement ..." wrote Vindman.

In recent weeks, Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine. The country has tried to argue that Ukraine and NATO are the aggressors, and has demanded a commitment that NATO not expand to include Ukraine.

Biden, for his part, engaged with Putin this week in a call describing the interaction with the Russian leader as "straightforward."

"I made it very clear, if in fact he invades Ukraine there will be severe consequences," Biden said, Wednesday, adding that the Russian president would incur economic penalties "like none he has ever seen."

Vindman said that U.S. foreign policy has yet to keep Putin in check.

"To date, U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine has failed to keep the Kremlin in check. When it comes to Russia's neighbors, Washington has settled for a passive role and has been, at best, fickle in its friendship with Ukraine," wrote Vindman, who was born in Ukraine. "This American neglect must end."

Vindman urged the U.S. to increase economic and military support to Ukraine.

"The United States must support Ukraine by providing more extensive military assistance, deep and sustained diplomatic engagement and, most crucially, economic cooperation," he said.

Biden said Wednesday that he is not considering sending troops to Ukraine amid rising fears of a Russian invasion.

"That is not on the table," Biden told reporters at the White House before departing for a trip to Kansas City, Mo.

"We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5, it's a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to ... Ukraine," he added.

Vindman said there would be "irrefutable benefits" to providing stronger support to Ukraine, including deterring America's major adversaries, China and Russia.

"U.S. support for Ukraine could also help drive a wedge between China and Russia," he wrote. "Preventing Mr. Putin from invading Ukraine demonstrates the strength of the West's commitment to opposing autocracy and makes Russia a less potent partner to China in their mutual efforts to undermine the Western rules-based international order."

Vindman himself garnered national attention after he testified during former President Trump's first impeachment inquiry in front of a House panel. The impeachment inquiry centered around a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.