Sam Clovis — one of six Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate — said it’s time for the U.S. to set up a “containment” policy against Russia.  He said that means more U.S. support to countries like Poland and Hungary that border Russia, as well as an effort to bolster NATO.

“I think we need to also make it very clear to Russia…that any incursions outside of Crimea, the Ukraine, would be met with great vigor,” Clovis said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “They could read that any way they wish.”

But sending in the U.S. military now to push the Russians out of Crimea isn’t a realistic option, according to Clovis.

“The geography goes against us here,” Clovis said. “We really don’t have the wherewithal to do anything other than to stomp our feet and say: ‘Don’t do that.'”

Clovis worked in the Pentagon in the 1980s and one of his two areas of expertise was Russia.

“I think a lot of people — I’m not sure they understand the history of Russia. You go back, you know, 1500 years to the foundation of the Russia empire. It actually started in Ukraine and was evolved out of that,” Clovis said. “Moscow finally became the seat of power…This whole issue is about as Russian as it gets.”

The Russian-backed government in Crimea applied to join Russia Monday after a weekend referendum that Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union called illegal. U.S. and EU officials announced sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials and their allies in the region. In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that recognizes the independence of the Republic of Crimea and Russia’s parliament is expected to vote soon on annexing the territory.

“Crimea is mostly Russia speakers. Ukraine has been part of the Russian sphere of influence for centuries and I really think this is just the flexing of muscles and the expansion of the Russian empire back to more traditional, historic borders,” Clovis said.

In the mid-1980s Clovis worked on the Pentagon’s “Project Checkmate” and is an expert on Soviet military operations. Economic and diplomatic sanctions won’t work against Russia, according to Clovis.

“Nothing we’ve ever done with Russia has ever really worked except out-spending them,” Clovis told Radio Iowa. “And that’s really what caused the collapse of the Soviet Union was the notion that they could not keep up with us when we began to develop ‘Star Wars.'”

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan announced the “Strategic Defense Initiative” — envisioned as a high-tech defense system that would shoot down incoming nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union.