During my 14 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I traveled across the country and around the globe working counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber security and international corruption assignments. Carrying out these missions in Kiev, Ukraine shaped my view of the evolving situation in Eastern Europe, ultimately driving me to join the Congressional Ukraine Caucus as co-chair upon my arrival on Capitol Hill this January.

As the new administration reevaluates and redefines American foreign policy, this bipartisan group will actively participate in shaping policy related to Eastern Europe.

In that light, twenty members of our group – Republicans and Democrats – wrote to the president urging continued support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, increased U.S.-Ukraine cooperation, and reaffirming our belief that that there must be no sanctions relief on Russia until The Minsk Agreements are fulfilled.

But this message is not only to our own government. Our nation must call on Russia-controlled separatists to immediately stop the violence in Eastern Ukraine, honor the ceasefire, and withdraw heavy weapons. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus – alongside Reps. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) -  I am deeply concerned with the loss of life, and the deteriorating humanitarian condition in Avdiivka, in Eastern Ukraine, since heavy fighting broke out on Jan. 28. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), at least eight people have died in the last three days, and 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, do not have access to water, electricity, or heat in below freezing temperatures. With each continued day of fighting, more and more families feel the devastating impact of this conflict.

The simple fact is this: the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine’s east undermine stability in Europe and threaten our allies. It has been the common understanding in our time that nations do not settle disputes by seizing the sovereign territory of their neighbors. To ignore this principle is to undo the progress we have made as an international community.  The United States must act swiftly and with confidence of action to prevent the overturning of a post-Cold War security order in Eurasia that has allowed for unprecedented peace and prosperity. Congress and the White House must work together to guard against Russian objectives that seek to weaken NATO, OSCE, and the United States.

It is critical to our national interest that the United States stand with the people of Ukraine and with our NATO allies against Russia’s sustained and dangerously destabilizing strategy of economic sanctions, political pressure, propaganda, and cyberattacks.  By ignoring Russia’s actions towards Ukraine, we not only risk Ukraine’s future, where heavy-handed Russian interference, contributing to the death of the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ during the Maidan in 2014, continues to undermine hopes for an open and democratic society, but also our own national security interests in the region.

Standing strong with our time-tested allies in freedom's cause is liberty's best defense. The United States must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies and with the Ukrainian people, who have demonstrated time and again their will for a sovereign and democratic country, free from Russia's interference. The wrong approach in Ukraine has the potential to set a dangerous precedent of apathy towards the sovereignty of Eastern European states, including vital NATO allies, and weaken American foreign policy at the very onset of the Trump administration.