As a mother, as someone who experienced flight from a country lost to a takeover by anti-democracy barbarians, as a lover of freedom and justice, my heart breaks for the innocent civilians being murdered by Vladimir Putin. Recent reports from Ukraine show Putin’s forces using diabolical weapons to attack civilians including bombing a maternity hospital, a children’s cancer hospital, and a theater where women and children were seeking shelter.

I escaped Cuba with my family in 1960, when we landed in Florida with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Now, millions of Ukrainians are on that journey and President Joe Biden has failed them and failed to lead during an international crisis. The free world turns to the United States for leadership, and instead, they witnessed a vacillating president unable to respond with immediate and swift actions.

After the indecisive delay in sending weapons to Ukraine, despite the incessant warnings and announcements of the impending Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden’s refusal to end and fully ban the importation of Russian oil until March 8 (two weeks after Putin invaded Ukraine on February 22) and seize all Russian tankers in U.S. territorial waters while simultaneously opening the spigots of American oil and gas is immoral and cruel. It is immoral and cruel to enrich Russia, enabling it to continue its ruthless unjustified invasion of Ukraine. It is immoral and cruel to Americans whose jobs he killed with the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline, in ANWR and all drilling and exploration on public land in America. It is immoral and cruel to American consumers who now must pay inflated prices for gasoline, home heating oil, propane, electricity, food, clothing and all other necessities.

While Biden’s economic destruction does not resemble what Putin has wrought in Ukraine, it is cruel nonetheless, for it is killing by a thousand cuts the American dream: the aspirations and opportunities to improve American lives and to provide for American children out of ideological zeal and indifference. Releasing oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to lower gasoline prices for a day or two is irresponsible and condescending. This reserve exists to be used in times of strategic emergencies, not to regulate prices. That’s what markets do. The foolishness of this decision speaks for itself. Make America energy independent again, make America a net-exporter of energy again and watch prices drop and Putin stall.

Back to the atrocities in Ukraine. Now enabled by Biden, after the murder by the Russian invaders of children playing soccer in Mariupol, the mayor begged: “The situation is quite critical. … We are asking for help from the military and are waiting for military help. I’m sure several days we can fight, but if we receive military help we can win in this war.”

More recently, the same mayor, after Russian forces bombed a hospital, said “(i)t’s genocide that was created by the Russian army with Putin.”

The Ukrainians are fighting an existential battle for their freedom. I learned both at the U.S. Army War College and at the Foreign Policy Institute at the U.S. State Department that diplomacy is always the tip of the spear. However, President Ronald Reagan left us the blueprint for defeating evil powers: Peace through strength. A powerful military reinforces the efficacy of diplomacy, but when diplomacy fails to resolve a crisis, it is the military that must take the baton. It is past time for the Western democracies to provide the planes and armaments that Ukraine needs to defeat the Russian invaders.

If Putin is allowed to take Ukraine in an immoral, unprovoked, genocidal invasion, our world will never be the same and tyranny will have won. We will have created a nightmare not only for the peoples of Ukraine, Taiwan, Poland and the Baltic and Balkan NATO countries, but for all freedom-loving democracies.

We rely on Russians for oil and gas, we rely on China for everything from toilet paper to microchips. If we are not self-reliant, from energy to technology to medications and any other sector of the economy, then we will always be forced to choose between our values and our pocketbooks. The Biden administration cluelessly tells hurting Americans to buy an electric car if they can’t afford $4 or $5 per gallon of gas, and blames Russia for its own misguided, destructive policies. If China moves on Taiwan, what will we do? Will we destroy our own economy to stand up for our allies? A truly strong and independent country would not have to choose.

Don’t delude yourself: If we, freedom-loving, powerful democracies do not have the will to stop Putin now, eventually our children and grandchildren will pay the price of our cowardice and indifference as did young Ilya on the soccer field in Mariupol.