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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a media meeting organized by the Russian People's Front in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Russia s President Vladimir Putin has mocked the Internet as a CIA project and pledged to protect Russia s interest in the online industry. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! No, seriously, they are.

But instead of the hilarious landing on New England beaches depicted in the 1966 classic film, they are engaged in a deadly serious incursion into neighboring Ukraine.

In fact, it has already begun. Russia snatched the low-hanging fruit of Crimea with precision, thus protecting a crucial warm-water port. Now, they are moving into parts of eastern Ukraine.

To be sure, they affect the usual "who-us?" demeanor -- as they did in Crimea -- claiming Ukrainian chaos is simply an uprising of the people against an illegal government in Kiev.

But, make no mistake, this is a concerted effort that is at the least organized and orchestrated by the Russian government.

Vladimir Putin is on a mission to return Russia to its Soviet Union superpower status.

This move actually began in 2008 when Russia's forces mauled neighboring Georgia in a war that lasted all of five days that Putin characterized as protection of pro-Russian secessionists. Sound familiar?

Then, as now, the world knew better. But the prevailing political calculus in the U.S. and Europe -- the only likely places with the collective muscle to punish Russia -- was that Russia had grown too powerful and, besides, Georgia really wasn't worth the fight, be it economic or otherwise. Best not to poke the bear.

Putin then spent the next half decade and a huge portion of the national treasury focused on the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and the attention it would bring to Russia. Just as the Chinese in the 2008 Summer Games, Putin saw a tremendous opportunity to re-brand his nation for the world.

But once the games ended, Putin used a dispute he had manufactured as an excuse to swallow Crimea.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian government ordered resumption of its own military operations against pro-Russian militants in the east after a political supporter was kidnapped and killed in Horlivka.

Quite according to script, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gravely warned in a TV interview that, "If we are attacked, we would certainly respond."

So, here we go again.

The European response has been timid as it worries that imposing economic sanctions will prompt a retaliatory loss of Russian gas, among other things. The U.S. response has been slightly better as it attempted targeted sanctions against Putin's close loyalists, but that simply isn't enough.

As a practical matter, economic sanctions are the only real weapon available, so they should be used to the fullest. Putin knows full well neither the U.S., nor Europe will go to war to save Ukraine.

The West must use the full extent of its economic power and be willing to accept some short-term blowback, if Russian expansionism is to be halted.