Putin must be punished

These recent events have a direct bearing on the security of all of NATO. Russia now has a challenging number of naval ships in the Black Sea, meaning it can threaten NATO members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. And that may just be the beginning. Russia also has a significant presence in the Baltic Sea. Recently, Russia’s fighters were intercepted, not for the first time, over the Baltic region and had not filed a flight plan. Who can guarantee that this was not a rehearsal of patrols over the notorious Nord Stream II gas pipeline being built by Russia through the Baltic Sea to challenge Europe?

Russia’s objective is obvious: It wants to return to an era where property and land are seized by force. It starts with Ukraine and continues westward as far as the democratic world will allow. Democratic countries must now make a choice: Stand up for what is right or continue appeasing President Vladimir Putin. If history has taught us anything, it is that appeasement has deadly costs. Despite Kremlin propaganda, Mr. Putin is weaker than he would have the West believe. The West can — by raising the cost of his aggression — force him to fall back into line.

How much more hostility will it take before the West’s words of concern graduate into the hard currency in which the Kremlin trades — strength?