Since the establishment of the United Nations, countries are not supposed to be allowed to take land from one another. More specifically, Russia agreed to respect Ukraine's borders when Kiev gave up its nuclear weapons 20 years ago. Putin has shredded that historical document.
According to the Sunday Times, Barack Obama has had it with trying to build a partnership with Vladimir Putin. Like George W. Bush before him, Barack Obama has finally written off Vladimir Putin.
The key to getting Russia to back away from any potential invasion of Ukraine is what it has always been, to ensure that Ukraine, just a few hundred miles from Moscow, does not become a leading outpost of the West and NATO.
Even from the most cynical Cold-War, money-is-money, dog-eat-dog capitalism-is-capitalism perspective, a redrawn Ukraine would be far more in the West's, rather than strictly "Russian," "ethnic" interest.
NATO should be getting the message. Someone in Brussels should be ordering a big cake, compiling the festschrift, preparing golden parachutes for the top brass, and getting the "mission accomplished" banner printed up.
The problem President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel face is that Putin holds the far stronger hand in the poker match. He can act quickly and decisively without worrying about his rubber-stamp Duma and an approving Russian public. He has a plan -- dominate and neutralize the countries around Russia to create a buffer zone from his adversaries NATO and the European Union. Obama and Merkel are playing a much weaker hand. They have wisely decided not to use their strongest card -- NATO's far stronger military -- to counter Putin's aggression.
Putin is being consistent with his training in martial arts and the KGB -- he is disciplined, calculating, precise, and seized an opportunity that presented itself in pursuit of his objectives. His thought process is not driven by Western principles, but, rather, realpolitik.
Sanctions should not be seen as an instrument to punish Russia. However, a credible threat of sanctions can adjust Russia's approach.
Missing from much of the discussion, though, is a frank assessment of what exactly the U.S. and its European allies seek to accomplish outside the more immediate aim of keeping the Russians out of Ukraine.
There are times these days when Secretary of State John Kerry seems like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills in trying to teach Russian President Vladimir Putin diplomatic manners and get right-wing Israeli leaders to accept a peace deal with the badly split Palestinians.
With Yanukovych ousted, the ever myopic U.S. press rapidly shifted its attention to Russia's response, or more accurately to the behavior of Vladimir Putin.
Although Russia has managed to consolidate control of Crimea without provoking a full-blown war with Ukraine, the crisis is by no means over, above all because the annexing of Crimea does not solve the Kremlin's redline issue -- Ukraine's external orientation and possible NATO accession. If anything, it has made it worse.
To understand (as distinct from 'to agree with') the Russian viewpoint, one needs to remember that Ukrainian nationalists/fascists fought alongside the Nazi invaders. Today's Ukrainian "Right Sector" party is one their current incarnations.
Tensions between the West and Russia will only be diffused when both sides begin displaying the same level of sensitivity to the concerns of the other that Kennedy's team brought to bear in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Obama's Brussels oration bore a striking resemblance to his Nobel Prize speech in 2009. Yesterday's effort was shorter and less pompous, but, in Brussels as in Oslo, Obama's words again carried the patina of American superiority. The attitude emerged most starkly where he went furthest to disown it: "We Americans remember well the unimaginable sacrifices made by the Russian people in World War II, and we have honored those sacrifices." Do we remember those sacrifices? How exactly have we shown that we honor them -- in which administration and by what series of actions? If President Obama wanted to help us remember, he could have cited some numbers. Three hundred thousand Americans died in the Second World War: a terrible and frightening number. Twenty million Russians died -- one Russian out of eight. Educated Europeans know this. Few Americans of any generation know it.