How to understand Putin's Ukraine strategy
March 1st, 2014
08:57 PM ET

How to understand Putin's Ukraine strategy

By Leon Aron, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Leon Aron is resident scholar and director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.

To understand what motivates Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian crisis and how he will proceed, we have to recall two key things about his strategy and his tactics.

First, Russian foreign policy – whether under Brezhnev, Yeltsin, Putin or anyone after him – is informed by three imperatives: Russia as a nuclear superpower, Russia as the world’s great power, and Russia as the central power in the post-Soviet geopolitical space. And a power that is political, economic, cultural, diplomatic and most certainly military.

What differs from one Russian political regime to another is interpretation and implementation, that is, the policies that support these objectives.  Putin’s have been far more assertive and at times riskier than those of his predecessors. The nuclear “superpowership” has been translated into a vehement opposition to missile defense in Europe.  Russia as a great power has been defined largely in opposition to the U.S. and the West in general. And the centrality of Russia in the post-Soviet space has been re-interpreted as dominance and hegemony.

Ukraine’s European breakout – caused by Putin’s first major political blunder in openly and heavy handedly betting on ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and thus escalating the issue from corruption and thievery to Ukraine’s sovereignty – is hugely important to Putin’s Russia. Why? Because it has dealt a very heavy, perhaps fatal, blow to not one but two elements of the Russian geostrategic triad as defined by Putin: to the "great power" pillar (the West has won in the Ukraine!), and to Russia's hegemony in the post-Soviet space.

From Moscow’s point of view, the double whammy must be mitigated – or better yet reversed – before the consequences become irrevocable and the geopolitical map of Eurasia permanently redrawn.  As a result, for as long as the eye can see, containment, de-stabilization and, if possible, derailment of the Europe-bound Ukraine will be by far the most important objective of Russian foreign (as well domestic) policy.

As to the tactics, in his effectively 14 years in power, Putin has been very lucky both in his domestic and foreign endeavors, in part because of objective factors (when he took over as acting president in 1999, a barrel of crude averaged around $17 a barrel) and in large measure because his opponents, at home and abroad, were politically or economically handicapped.

As a result, Putin has trusted his luck and his smarts while counting on his opponents' weaknesses. This means he has operated in accordance with Napoleon’s principle: On s’engage and puis on voit, which I would translate as “First get into a fight, and then decides what to do."

And that is how he has proceeded thus far,  gradually escalating the pressure on Ukraine, seeing what works and what does not, pausing and looking over his shoulder at the response from the West, primarily the U.S.  From the expression of concern for the safety of ethnic Russians in Ukraine (which proved ineffective), to the questioning of the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government, to the introduction of forces in the Crimea, to his “request” to the Federation Council of the Russian parliament for the “use” of troops in Ukraine. In accordance with his tactical habits, Putin will likely stop now and assess the reaction.  A full-scale invasion and occupation of Crimea is therefore likely to be next – unless the response from the “West” proves effective.

What will that response be? We know (and so surely does Putin) that the U.S. is not going to go to war over Ukraine.  Yet even with the military option off the table, the U.S. still has quite a few diplomatic and economic tools at its disposal, to be deployed publicly and, most crucially, privately.

The U.S. and its allies also must keep in mind that most, if not all, of these measures are aimed not only at Putin but at the elites around him and at the Russian public at large. Dominant though he is, Putin is not Stalin or Brezhnev. Russia is not the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain is gone – the internet exists and public opinion matters.

The West’s steps are not difficult to divine. To begin, in the public domain, separate statements and phone calls to Putin by U.S. allies would be replaced by a joint statement from the heads of state of NATO and EU countries warning about the “consequences” of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such a statement should stress that Russia risks isolating itself from the world – economically, politically, culturally – with disastrous results for the people of the Russian Federation.

These “consequences” may have been spelled out in President Obama’s private call to Putin (with an understanding that what is private today may become public tomorrow). Ideally, the conversation would have been one in which the American president was speaking not only for the U.S., but also for NATO and the EU. The president is likely to have pointed out that the risks would involve Russia's membership in the G-8, the safety of financial and other assets of the Russian elite which are located outside of Russia, as well as the ability of the members of this elite and their families to visit, live or study in the U.S. and the EU. In addition, Moscow's behavior could trigger new export controls, which given its dependence on Western technology, particularly in the oil and gas sector as well as in the food industry, could have a very negative impact on the Russian economy.​

Alongside these measures, the U.S. and its allies might also provide – publicly and in private – a few face-saving devices for Russia, such as guarantees that the Russian-speaking Ukrainians will be free from harassment or discrimination of any kind; an introduction of U.N.  peacemaking forces in Crimea to protect the political rights of all  Crimeans, and the reaffirmation of the pre-existing “special status” of Crimea within Ukraine, as well as the continuation of the pre-existing Russian sovereignty of the leased naval base in Sevastopol.

Given the size of the hole that the Ukrainian revolution has torn in the fabric of Russia’s geopolitics, these measures may not stop Russia from attempting to reverse the crisis. But they will certainly convey the increasing costs of the course in which the Kremlin seems to be embarking, and possibly provide a way out without losing face.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (373 Responses)
  1. Julian Assange

    At the end of the day, American MANIAC pursue of GLOBAL DOMINATION going to extremes of even supporting AGITATORS, EXTREMISTS and even known TERRORIST GROUPS to oust the leadership of SOVEREIGN nations like Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine FORCED Putin to adopt the ONLY decision available to protect Russian people and interests.

    America is AGAIN at the origin of even one more CRISIS that can develop in just another HUMAN CATASTROPHE!

    For how much longer will the CIVILIZED people of this world tolerate War Prone, Trigger Happy SELFISH Americans meddling nations internal affair???

    March 2, 2014 at 10:40 am | Reply
    • nunya

      You should stop smoking that stuff... Your day is coming ... You will be dealt a blow that you will know.... is warranted.... You will be sure that you have earned whats coming to you.. There will be no doubt that KARMA wiill unveil your face in the light of judgement from the people of the CIVILIZED world.... Do not accuse the US of things you do not understand.....!

      March 2, 2014 at 10:50 am | Reply
      • justus

        If there is karma, surely most of the US-leaders (political and military) will be reborn as roaches. As much unwarranted pain as they have caused around the globe.

        March 2, 2014 at 11:09 am |
      • John

        I remember in my 14th summer being tired and upset from growing pains. Is it not so with nations...and their people?

        Emotions do tend to get in the way of progress but are inevitable. If I wrap mine up in this, in a big way, then who gets hurt? Me.

        As to the general issue of freedom, I feel that's fair game for an outsider like me. After all, we're all residents of this pearl in the galaxy. Better that your and others emotions come out in individual posts...just an opinion...I don't know you...nor dislike you.

        Stifled emotions soon boil over into things we some day would like to take back. Go ahead let it rip in a post. I think you'll feel better.

        People will eventually reveal themselves in words if you listen closely. I'm an American also. My heritage is Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Russian. Peace be with you, if not, may it find you.

        March 2, 2014 at 11:23 am |
    • barry392003@yahoo.ca

      "SELFISH Americans meddling nations internal affair???" Julian, if we are not mistaken the Ukraine is a sovereign nation recognized by the UN–not a Russian state. Do you know nothing of sovereignty? As for Syria–we have stood by and watched a tyrant bolstered by Russian hardware murder his own people for two years now. It is blatantly clear that the Russians are doing the meddling there. And now in the Ukraine, they are doing much more than meddling and I fear it will not be long before they are slaughtering civilians there. Why else would they deny, and not wear insignia on their uniforms. You need a serious lesson on just what the word "sovereignty" means before you shoot off your rants.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:02 am | Reply
      • The scared

        Dear Obama this is the action in Ukraine that is connected to Syria, as to Bind Putin's actions on Syria. Ultimately it all started from the riverbanks of Euphrates I am afraid that this escalating war is the war that will kill over 2 billion people all over the Europe, and Muslim world. Mr Bzezinsky is smart, but miscalculated one thing, the nuts Putin will absolutely use nukes.
        I am afraid the nuts Putin will kill some US population from subs as well. I am Slavic, I know that mentality. I am scared what Russians will do, I feel they will. The bitterness from losing the soviet union will push them do unimaginable.

        March 2, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • lomax

      America have 18 000 000 000 dollars debt, if not WARS and POWER of FORCE, than... you know what gonna happen ) USA mastermind Zbignev Bzezhinskiy orchestrated this Ukrain vs Russia, by sponsoring neo-nazi ukranians, who revolted democratically elected government, and siezed power in Kiev. But regions are revolted agains those nazi, and Russia will support those ukranians and russians, who are firmly against nazi government.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:07 am | Reply
      • Ann Burdyliak

        What are you just talking about?
        Where have YOU seen nazis in Ukraine? I'm Ukrainian student, i live in Kiev and from the very first day of revolution i was at the central squares of my city , so as many ukrainians did. First – as the act of support of European integration, course, but most of us, ordinary people , came to the streets as a result of beating of students on November 30th. And revolted against criminal government, which was cleaning us out for last few years.Yes, there were nationalists between us, but first you have to see difference between nationalists and nazis, and next – between hundredth and the main driving force of rebels. Nationalists are good power to gather people, to give them realistic outlook on the situation in every revolution. But most people are not radicals. We want to have peace and prosperity, not the government, which kills us, while we are peacefully demonstrating our views. It is the fact – the driving force of revolution were average people , who are just fed up with criminal leaders of our country.
        We've suffered so much during last three monthes, we've buried so many of our friends, we have achieved , finally , government which hear us, even if it is temporary improvement, and what next? Wasn't it enough?
        There were no victims on the basis of language conflict in Ukraine. All people in my country freely speak there mother language. Personally, i talk russian and ukrainian, both. Neither me, nor my friends have never encountered with the language problem. This issue is far-fetched. But army on the streets of south regions , in Crimea – isnt.
        Frankly speaking, I dont want to be pawn in someone elses game. I dont want to see my beloved people in military uniform defending my country against dictator with the manners of the Emperor. What is more, Russians also dont wanna fight against their brothers. It is a nonsense, and my nation is in panic. 21st century...We are afraid to live in an era of changes.

        March 2, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
      • Tomek

        The American debt is 1000 times larger than the number you give.
        The whole mess is an attempt to marginalize Russia. If she caves in, she will become insignificant as a global power. I only want to know how China is going to react to all of this.

        March 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
    • Truth

      What are you blabbering?? Putin invades a country where the general Ukrainian public dislike Russian and it's corrupt government and Ukrainian people want peace, prosperity while Putin and his puppet president want control.. You wait and watch, this is going to end in humiliation and a Arab spring situation in Russia..

      March 2, 2014 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • HorseHockey

      Horse Hockey JuliaNisStrange, US doesn't give a rat's behind about territory except what we have and we will gladly give up Peurto Rico if you want it..........the only domination is the new Nazi Regime under Putin of which you apparently are a voting member.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • Eric

      nutcase

      March 2, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • Michel

      Julian your understanding of the situation is hopeless....

      March 2, 2014 at 11:25 am | Reply
    • Alex

      Agree! America should stay away from this deal. There are a lot of Russian citizens at Crimea territory and they have a full right to be protected. US has no rights to tell another nations what to do. Instead of putting their nose everywhere US should fix the internal issues first : unemployment, welfare and 17 trillion debt.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:43 am | Reply
      • Oskar

        I hope you are ironic? When is it allowed for another country to invade another because there are people from their country in the other country?

        With that pretext Iceland could (if they where able to) invade all countries in the world.

        March 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
      • Natali, Kiev, Ukraine

        Alex, Im also russian, there is nothing to be protected from – we are leaving peacfuly in Ukraine – and putin brought here troops to occupy part of Ukraine

        March 2, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
      • taffylinden

        Wow, if you want to sound like you're just an average joe and not Putin's pawn, you'll have to do better than that. And if you think invading another country is "protection" of some of its residents, you really have drunk the Kool-Aid. (You might have to look up that colloquial phrase if you're posting from Russia.) I had to laugh at your decrying American leaders making statements as "sticking its nose" into places where it doesn't belong, when you're defending a country that has sent troops where IT doesn't belong. Logic is evidently not your strong suit.

        March 2, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
    • dr Nada

      Why you are talking about "USA imperialism" when we are looking just now-Russian redisch imperialism.Russia is agressor in Ukraina.Not USA.Not EU!Russians in Ukraina wish to be part of SSSR!But they are citizens of Ukraina,not Russia or SSSR that means Big Russia.It is the same scanario like in Croatia when serbs attacted Croats in Croatia to "protect" serns in Croatia.Who attact now russians in Ukraina?Nobody!As nobody had been attack serbs in Croatia.So,lets talk abour russian imperialism at this moment.Lets talk about ukraina people that suffering.Lets talk about communistic imperialism!

      March 2, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply
      • NL

        Great comment. I was thinking the exact same thing. Lots of similarities between what's happening nowadays in Ukraine and in Croatia 1991. Being from Croatia (like you, I presume), I'm familiar with what happened here. Lots of typical rhetoric where one nation is accused of threatening some minority and then using that as a pretext for invasion.
        I hope all of this will simmer down, but I'm not so sure, not with the experiences I had. I know which side I'm cheering for here...

        March 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
      • Nicholas101

        So,lets talk abour american imperialism at this moment.Lets talk about Syria people that suffering.Lets talk about democratic imperialism! dr Nada

        March 2, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • ichorus

      As long as the rest of the Western world counts on the U.S. to take that role.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • Igor

      East Berlin '53. Hungary '56, Czechoslovakia '68, Afghanistan '79, Chechnya '94 and 2000, Georgia '08, Ukraine (?). Truly, enough is enough! Putin can be stopped ONLY with far-reaching sanctions, and they OUGHT TO follow this time. - BTW, I am writing this from St.Petersburg, Russia.

      March 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Reply
      • Алекс

        Врёшь!!! Россия последний оплот свободы и демократии в мире! Фашизм не пройдёт! Уже Израиль поддерживает Россию! Весь думающий мир с нами!

        March 2, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
    • Natali, Kiev, Ukraine

      Revolution that happened in Ukraine on Maidan – nothing to do with extremism and nazism. I see it every day and participating in it – and believe Julian – you are deeply mistaken. It's all Putin's plan – his game, because before he could simply agree with our corrupted leadership of the country, and now sees that this has finished!

      March 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Reply
      • isaios

        This is a lie. The new ukrainian kiev government is based on a neo-nazi, anti-semitic party. It is a great shame to U.S. government the cooperation with germany and merkel to a nazi-transformation of Europe.

        March 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
      • Julia, Russia

        I'm from Russia (and sorry for my bad english) and I did not vote for Putin. But in this situation I can understand him. The United States intervened in Ukraine's politics, shaken environment, funded this f..k "right branch" (red rag for the Russian bull"). And all with one purpose, to remove the Russian military fleet from the Crimea. Part naive Ukrainians believed another part of the cynical Ukrainians who sold out to the United States. That's all. That else is necessary for Russians to protect its border. Nowhere to hide our military fleet on the Black sea? Putin will not allow it. What we have now? Dirty political game, which quarrel two fraternal peoples, who lived next to each other 1000 years. It is a pity. After this, you can't say you live in a democratic country and want, that the Ukrainian and Russian people lived in the same way..

        March 2, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
    • jkgr;oihag;ohigwe;oih

      think about this more critically, Russia isn't the good guy and the US isn't the bad guy in this situation. it's more complex than that.

      March 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  2. PMC

    PUTINS STRATEGY:
    Mobilize units devoid of identification to invade and seize strategic political points within Ukraine.
    Deny invasion
    Install puppet as "stabilizing leader" while using special forces to attack and destroy backbone network fibers
    Deny involvement
    Inject 65,000 troops into Ukraine to bolster already present forces
    Ask Parliament to approve using military
    Dig in and profit as the world was too slow to act to protect the sovereignty of the Ukraine

    He did the same thing with Georgia. Lie and deny to the face of the UN and the world while OBVIOUSLY rolling tens of thousands of troops, tanks, and aircraft across russias borders in a full-scale invasion.

    March 2, 2014 at 10:44 am | Reply
  3. John

    Summing up the article then, as a bear hibernates in winter returning in spring a bigger, stronger, and wiser bear from its experiences, is it so for Russia? The bear will rarely make the same mistake twice as it goes by instinctive memory not intellectual. Give the bear those higher emotions that come with intellect does the bear soon discover and react to the world emotively as well?

    Why not the follow up this event with an opportunity for a win-win? Russia gets Crimea and Ukraine gets the tariffs to grow its economy as well as trade with the EU. The Ukraine stabilizes, grows, and becomes an allied asset with Russia. C'mon now, trade expanded the old world into new. It's in our blood. Who knows, maybe Russia and the Ukraine would start robust trade down the road.

    Just wingin it...Strife always hits a raw nerve in me. PEACE

    March 2, 2014 at 10:56 am | Reply
  4. lomax

    Americans, my friends ) Have you any idea about those people, that you Obama and NATO support in Kiev ? Do you know, that they are NEO NAZI ? They openly NAZI, they slogan of this "revolution" (coup) was – "Kill jews and russians, save Ukraine !" Oh, yes, you INDEPENDENT MEDIA havent said you this unpleasant fact !

    March 2, 2014 at 10:57 am | Reply
    • Пути

      It is not so. What you said is absolutely untrue. They fed you with wrong info. Are you in Russia?

      March 2, 2014 at 11:04 am | Reply
      • lomax

        as far as i am ukranian, who lives in Russia, I KNOW MUCH MORE than you do about UKRAINE, ok ? I have phone calls from all my friends from Ukraine, all they say – Germany 1937 in Ukraine 2014 ! The FLEE from there to Russia. Bandits with NAZI slogans everywhere, threatening russians and ukranians and jews to speak only Ukranian language, those who speak russian – they beat and even kill. NAZI in POWER. In Europe, 2014 ! And as always, America is very happy about that.

        March 2, 2014 at 11:13 am |
      • Igor

        I am in Russia (more precisely St.Petersburg), and I confirm that representing the Kiev "Maidanists" as Nazis is a lie. I, a Russian, know a lot of those who have participated in the recent revolution, and can testify in any international court that they are decent people who have had enough of pro-Moscow thieves in their government.

        March 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
    • Ukrainian jew

      You are mistaken. Jews were staying on the barricades along with other citizens of Ukraine – Ukrainians, Russians, Armenians, Georgians... This is a revolt against criminals that took power.

      March 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Reply
      • lomax

        I have calls from Ukraine, Rovno, people are ready to flee to Russia, because of anarchy of neo-nazi. What you say is contraty to that. And you know what ? I believe my friends and brothers, not you ) And also – you could watch some videos from tube, jusy type "Yarosh, ukranian nazi". That is man who in power in Kiev know. All you people take a look at him.

        March 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • Abdul

      This is a lie. While there are few Nationalists among Ukrainians (as everywhere), there's no threat from the current government to the Russians. There is absolutely no indication of this.

      March 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  5. DEG

    Definitely, he (Putin) has the eyes of a tiger!

    March 2, 2014 at 11:10 am | Reply
  6. Eddie Gein

    Test

    March 2, 2014 at 11:14 am | Reply
  7. Ken

    LOL - Putin won' stop. Look, the LEGITIMATE leader of the Ukraine (President Viktor Yanukovych) has already requested aid from Russia in stopping this coup. HOW in the world can Obama and the West explain their supporting those driving Viktor from Kiev when back in 2010 (when Viktor won) the West basically said the elections were fair? They had thousands of observers watching the election. And while there were sporadic reports of violence or fraud, the amounts were no more or less than in Western nations. And the EU and Obama basically said the elections appeared fair. SO .. rather than support the legitimately elected leader of the nation, the West intends to support a new group as they are more pro-European in stance than the former? What complete and utter hypocricy!

    March 2, 2014 at 11:16 am | Reply
  8. HorseHockey

    Next Putin will teach his troops and Russian citizens to HEIL PUTIN, and he will grow a little mustache that looks like a square. MinnieMe Joseph Stalin has taken over Russia and the World will be his or else.............

    March 2, 2014 at 11:18 am | Reply
  9. HorseHockey

    Hitler 5'8" Napoleon 5'6" and Putin? 5'5" what a man................what a legend.

    March 2, 2014 at 11:19 am | Reply
  10. Michel

    We don't need to go through those multiple recaps on Russian or Soviet history. The People of Russia has nothing to do with this. We're wasting our time with him. He's just an ordinary despot. He doesn't care about treaties. Let's face it, this guy has always been a bully, and his gang is running a strong dictatorship to deepen their pockets. I wonder who had the brilliant idea to award them the Olympics...

    March 2, 2014 at 11:22 am | Reply
  11. Bura

    It is vary easy to have a discussion if you are not in Ukraine. Does anybody know the name of Stepan Bandera? It is a synonym of fascism for everybody both in Ukraine and Russia. And now these people got o real power in Ukraine (they are not a government they tell a government what to do). They want to do the same things as Hitler did in 20 century. They want to kill, they want to pillage, they want to humble russian-speaking people in Ukraine, they have gun. First thing that Turchinov did was outlaw Russian language despite the fact that a half of Ukranians speak Russian. Now there is no police in Ukraine. There are photos in social networks with gallows in Ukraine which were made by Bandera to frighten people. Who will protect a peaceful inhabitants? I suppose that people in USA and in EU do not know these facts. People in Russia and in Ukraine do not want a violence and war!

    March 2, 2014 at 11:23 am | Reply
  12. lomax

    Americans.

    Is it illigal in US to speak russian ?
    Is it illigak in Russia to speak english american ?

    In Ukraine, NOW, it is illigal to SPEAK Russian.

    You think you are civilized people if you support neo nazi, only to make Russia feel pain ? Any means necessary ?

    March 2, 2014 at 11:28 am | Reply
    • Igor

      Another lie. It only goes about the OFFICIAL language. In private, one can even speak Swahili in Ukraine, if one wants and can. However, as soon as one goes official, one has to speak Ukrainian, that is true. And, I believe, quite just.

      March 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Reply
      • lomax

        Tyagnibok already said that those, who speak russian, language of occupants), will be prosecuted. He wants to criminilize speaking russian.

        March 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
  13. Joachim

    There are foreign mercenaries from Sweden. Their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/svenskaukrainafrivilliga
    Some photos have disappeared the latest 48 hours but their leader in Ukraine: https://www.facebook.com/andreas.carlsson.79/photos
    claims that he has been given an office in the former communist party hq in Kiev by Svoboda.
    The swedes belong to Svenskarnas Parti: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_of_the_Swedes a neo-nazi party.

    March 2, 2014 at 11:32 am | Reply
  14. Miguel

    I am from Spain, I think Russia is going to win this match, USA and EU are too weak and slow, and they are not going to war for Ukraine, it´s a pity but Ukraine has risked too much for Europe. Russian has proved himself again as a Country with no respect for freedom.
    I would love Ukraine within EU, but I am afraid it wont be possible.
    Apologies for my english, I have done as best as I could.

    March 2, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Brian

      no problem at all, Miguel, you communicated quite well... And you might be right, but it still seems that Russia will not get what they want in the long run because this is only going to lead other nations to have anti-Russia policies....

      March 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  15. John

    I don't think most people want war which spelled backwards is RAW. There's some raw nerves out there all right, and diplomacy is always the best option to avert war. In the U.S., as an individual, I don't have the pulse on this so I try to stay apolitical and philosophical. Blanket statements about America(ns) thirst for war although understood are not true. I do understand freedom though, and why every Ukrainian, Crimean, and Russian should have it. True freedom comes with responsibility, and is known, when responsibility is the "truth" of it, its core principal. From there true freedom is built, not someone's "idea" of freedom. Too many crises have this lovely planet out of sync on peace, and war is not the answer, while responsibility is, whether it's the big guys bringing peace or the little guy asking for it. I have picked up an emotive pen or two and regretted it. I'm just and old salt sailing into the sunset of my life. I hope there will be world peace at my final horizon. Peace is a good word...let's overuse it but with care, while we're careful about using war.

    March 2, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply
  16. chrissy

    Amen @ Alex! And frankly im quite sick and tired of hearing about Rushia! You would think nothing else was going on in the world!

    March 2, 2014 at 11:54 am | Reply
  17. Julia C

    The highlight of the article for me: "Russia is not the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain is gone – the internet exists and public opinion matters."

    We're no longer faceless people to each other now, mere shadows of our respective countries. Most of us have many international friends, thanks to the internet, and the "one of us" mentality/myth has been dispelled. We are the substance of our countries. We can communicate. And our "say" counts.

    I'm not sure how that will effect the outcome/s of this and future crucial conflicts, but it will.

    *Following the developments closely here in America, and reading, weighing the perspectives of all*

    March 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  18. Harry George Jr

    It crazy how all these people that are talking bad about America live in America... This is a great country the only country where you can come from nothing and become somebody over night....

    March 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • Gulius

      Don't be silly. America is most certainly not the only country where one can from nothing and become something overnight.

      We do live in a great country, one of many great countries of the world, though we still have our problems of course, just like the rest of them.

      Why do so many speak poorly of us? Blanket mindset.

      I, for one, am not America. I'm an American, a person, an individual who resides in this space. I don't agree with, or support, every single thing our government does. Nor do individuals from other countries, in regards to their respective nations. If more people were able to escape that blanket-mindset and recognize, embrace this, the world would be a better place. You'd still have that odd narrow-minded person though, who thinks one's beliefs can be categorized, surmised, and defined, by one's physical location on the Earth, and who thinks there are only the same amount of people in this world, as there are countries.

      March 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • oleg

      Yes, you may become a gay, e.g

      March 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  19. Dear Kenyan Leader

    At least the Russians didn't have to go all the way to Kenya to find someone to lead them.

    March 2, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Reply
    • Gulius

      hardy har

      Do you do birthday parties? 🙂

      March 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • John

      Bartender, I'd like one of what he's drinking. But only one.

      March 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply
      • Gulius

        This is only a hunch, but I think it's vodka.

        Here, have one on me.

        And another for my friend "Dear Kenyan Leader!"

        March 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Kevin McGonigal

    I feel that long term US policy favors an aggressive nationalist like Putin. Our present administration weakens our influence and credibility by so reducing our military that Putin has to know that not only does the US lack the resolve to oppose him in some meaningful manner but more importantly the capability of doing so. Face it. Putin is going to be successful in his expansionist policies because there is neither the will nor the ability to stop him. The good people of Eastern Europe will once again be left to face the wrath of an aggressive autocrat and the West will do little more than wring its hands at the unfolding of this disastrous development. Good luck, people of Eastern Europe.

    March 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  21. Zak

    Becerfull World.... russians have evrewere spies to spread propaganda. This situation is clear its agreson on free country.

    March 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  22. Levent

    Of course, the US and their allies have plenty of measures to impose against Russia. They would threaten and like to impose various economic sanctions, asset freezing and other thinks, but they know for certain that it's not so easy to isolate a country like Russia. Russia is not Iran, and Russians would damage seriously their interests too. Instead Americans and their allies should stop backing nationalist Ukrainians who overtook the government without respecting their Eastern compatriots' opinion, and approach all the Ukrainians regardless of their background equally, without emboldening the nationlists. So, if Ukraine splits to East and West, that will be the result not just policies of Russia, but of their plans too. In fact, EU maybe looks very attractive to Ukrainian nationlists, but once they form a separate Ukraine and evetually joind the block, they will understand that it's their turn to provide Western Europe with cheap workforce. And their dreams will disappear may turn to a bitter disappointment.

    March 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  23. Depoz

    I have a lot of friends in Crimea bros. And u know- all happy and wanna to be with Russia. Crimea its republic in Ukraine and real democracy to made referendum and give people a chance to vote for their future. Referendum must be under control EU, US and Russia. Thats all. Its real democracy. Its not about Ukraine its not about Russia invasion. People wanna to vote and decide! I think its normal for everyone!!!!! Ukraine afraid it very much cause they know what exactly people in Crimea want! ITS TRUE!

    March 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • QQQ

      The biggest mystery in Crimea Russian people shouting for Russia to come is: from the former Soviet Union they are holy believing that Russia will protect them, and then feed them. And that's all. Nothing else. Russian people saying Russia to come, can not understand that Russia and real democracy cannot be in one place in same time. It's impossible.
      For sure Russia will use this stupid people in Russia own regional geopolitic aims and then abort them to the garbage.
      I was in Abkhazia in 2013. War ended 20 years ago – and it's like you came to the past. Nightmare – no modern life, no good supermarkets, no good cafees and restaurants, only some cheap and ugly places to eat. All these on the sight of Stalin's Ampire Soviet sanatoriums, hospitals, cinemas about 70 years old. No people, no traffic. And the nature, seashore – absolutely amazing. (just for note Gagry – place in Abkhazia 40 km far from Sochi).

      March 2, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  24. QQQ

    Good article! Big bla-bla-bla about international laws, democracy and so on for the public, and real threats to froze Russian elte's assets in EU and US in private. A path to solve the crisis (guarantees, and protection for both parties of crisis)- between bla-bla-bla and threats. This is the only way to speak to Russia so Putin will listen.

    March 2, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  25. Polak

    Putin to kurwa, która za wszelką cene zdobędzie co bedzie chciała. Moim zdaniem już dawno trzeba było zrobić z nim porządek. Mam nadzieje , że to się szybko skończy, a moje państow Polska (poland) bedzie wolna. Ciekaw jestem czy w Polsce jakby nasza władza zostala obalona i powstał wielki sprzeciw lewakom kierującym Polska : to czy Rosja (russia) też znalazlaby jakiś pretekst by sprowokować do działań zbroinych. Mam 16 lat i malo się orientuję w tych sprawach, ale mam nadzieje że to co piszę poparłoby ponad połowa mojego narodu i nie tylko.

    March 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  26. Kristian Lazar

    there is still a very strong nationalistic feeling among russians, so its not just Putin against the world but everyone calling him/herself russian is primarily obliged to protect any russian anywhere, this goes especially for the russian president.

    if putin were to leave the ethnic russians of the ukraine (or elswhere) vulnerable to attacks by non-russians he would loose legitimacy in the eyes of his own consistuency inside russia, putting his very own position under jeopardy.

    March 2, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  27. John

    Point taken

    March 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  28. w

    you know what? if putin will get through with ukraine, after a while he will find some unhappy ruskies to save elsewhere, in europe first, i think, and after that? in every country is at least few ruskies... wil that generous putin go to save them all? if no one stops him he will he will get every country he can, but if to stop him, then world war lll? greetings

    March 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  29. Alex Russian

    I think Putin is successful because any policy is a product of capability and motivation. And having less capability (possibly) he has very strong motivation. Shortly speaking -Ukraine is much closer to Russia than to US. Putin is sure this is the REAL threat to russian national security. It's not terrorists somewhere in the Middle East. It would be very very hard to oppose to the desire of the new Ukraine to enter NATO in future that's why it's better to act now. For him "status quo" is not the treaty but the real order of things.

    Considering motivation for the Maidan, I'm afraid the real invasion can be much more bloody than one can imagine considering just the size of military assets. While russians think that Maidan just cleans the surface for NATO deployment in the region, those young people in Kiev really think that the only problem is Yanoukovich and corrupted government and I presume are really ready to fight till the death. I would very like to be wrong.

    As for the freeze of assets of oligarchs. These are psychological projections. Good idea for those idiots who think Putin cares. Putin is a man of idea. And Russian people would be more than happy if oligarchs were punished for holding assets abroad. Those money were not to be invested in Russia anyway. And Putin doesn't care about thieves and certainly nobody can influence on him by this reason.

    March 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  30. John

    Here I go back to trade. Trade made the old world new and renewable, and so on it goes. The Danes, Portuguese, Spanish, and British sought trade for a core purpose I believe, Geophysical Parity. Populations follow discoveries, and so that goes. Less land [we're not making any], higher populations, and the necessary resources to grow and sustain populations, sometimes have translated into war. It need not be that way anymore. I don't know the answer I admit but I would imagine it begins with diplomacy. Peace be with you world leaders and if there is none may it find you.

    March 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Reply
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