Surely Putin has long understood, better than anyone else, how a few calls and promises from the Kremlin could readily recruit many of these local leaders in eastern Ukraine to win their cooperation in organizing local residents for pro-Russian demonstrations. To an unappreciated provincial councilor who has gotten words of assurance that he or she would be warmly welcomed into Putin's party of power, the idea of secession from Ukraine into Russia could become quite appealing. No bags of cash would be needed.
Before our eyes, the post-Soviet international system in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia is being overthrown. Nineteenth-century concepts of international order, based on zero-sum balance-of-power considerations and spheres of interest, are threatening to supersede modern norms of national self-determination, the inviolability of borders, the rule of law, and the fundamental principles of democracy. As a result, this upheaval will have a massive impact on Europe and its relations with Russia, for it will determine whether Europeans live by 21st century rules. Those who believe that the West can adapt to Russian behavior, as Putin's Western apologists suggest, risk contributing to further strategic escalation, because a soft approach will merely embolden the Kremlin.
Putin took Crimea because he could. He knew NATO wouldn't oppose him. With Russia on the move and the Chinese bullying smaller countries in the South China Sea, is it really smart to reduce the Army to its smallest size since 1940? To keep the peace, we need to convince Russia and China we'll remain the world's strongest power for the generation ahead.