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Dennis: Counter Putin with action on energy

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Dennis: Counter Putin with action on energy
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Why has Vladimir Putin succeeded? In part, because he understands the virtue of decisiveness. He acted: He assessed the risks of intervening in Ukraine, judged them acceptable and gave the orders.


Mind you, these were not rash decisions on Putin’s part. The Russian president rightly calculated that around the world, only Ukraine would care as much as about Ukraine as Russia does; and Ukraine posing no significant military threat (at least in Crimea), the odds of Russia’s success upon intervening were high.

But dictators and presidents alike ponder those kinds of odds all the time. The difference is, Putin said “Go,” and Crimea was his within the week.

President Barack Obama can be and has been decisive in this way. The president’s order to send Navy SEALS into Pakistan after Osama bin Laden clearly showed this power of will.

But the president’s response to Putin’s incursion has seemed more tentative. Perhaps that’s because he has felt there were no good options, military intervention by the United States being obviously off the table.

Now, though, the U.S. Senate has given Obama the opening he needs.

The president should seize the moment and very publicly act.

“A bipartisan group of eight senators returned from a weekend trip to the region and called for quick congressional action on a package of aid for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia,” The Washington Post reported.

Among the senators was Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who rightly suggested that U.S. action on energy could go a long way.

If ever there was a time to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and green light our ability to sell natural gas overseas, that time is now. But don’t take our word for it: “If we want to make Mr. Putin’s day and strengthen his hand, we should reject the Keystone,” said retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser from 2009 to 2010, in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If the president acted fast on key energy issues, including Keystone, he easily could win bipartisan congressional support. That’s the kind of unity that makes for second-guessing in the Kremlin, and that’s the kind of decisiveness Ukraine and America’s other allies need.

Dennis is the opinion editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at

Tom Dennis
(701) 780-1276