Around 40 percent of Russia's trade is with Western Europe. Even if Russia fails to retaliate by itself imposing counter-sanctions -- an unrealistic assumption -- its weaker economy would quickly translate into lower sales by Western European companies to the world's eighth largest economy, as well as less certain input supplies from there.
What the world is now witnessing in Ukraine is a political struggle between two different visions of modernity, good governance and a decent society. It is an echo, 20 years later, of what happened in 1989 and thereafter in many Warsaw Pact countries. They are now mostly members of the European Union and of NATO, living proof that history is not destiny. There is no reason why it could not happen now in Ukraine, in Russia. . .and elsewhere. The choice is for Ukrainians, Russians and others to make. But Europe and the United States should be there to help.
Territorial disputes are only solved after long, hard negotiations. The only recent exception in Europe has been the very successful velvet divorce conducted without referendums or threats of violence by politicians in what was Czechoslovakia. Let us not forget either that that was achieved in the teeth of opposition from European governments and the Russian Federation who wanted no change in boundaries.