Earlier today, the AP and Reuters reported that Russian forces rammed the gates of the Ukrainian military base near Sebastopol, which they have been holding under siege:

The two sides were reportedly in the middle of negotiating the Ukraninian soldiers’ terms of surrender, when the pro-Russian Crimean militia started assaulting the journalists who were reporting from the area.

According to early reports, members of a pro-Russia militia used a truck to break though the gate of the base. The truck got stuck at the gate, and Russia soldiers climbed over it. Some 70 Ukrainian troops were said to still be holding out in the bunkers. Russians troops who broke through the perimeter demanded the Ukrainian soldiers surrender.

Dangerous escalation, leading inexorably to a military showdown? It appears Putin is simply outsmarting Western intelligence — and certainly Western leadership — with the gambit, causing a global ruckus and perhaps eliciting further concessions. Because moments ago, Russia pulled away:

Putin, rather elegantly, is keeping the chattering Western diplomatic corps on its heels. He understands the American administration and the fractured, economically hamstrung European Union well enough to know he has a hell of a lot of rope to play with before comparable arms show up.

Even then, he knows the opposition will remain fractured as long as he doesn’t take a step drastic enough to offend Western sensibilities. And remember, chemical weapons can no longer can be considered outside of those sensibilities, thanks to last year’s Western humiliation in Syria.

The West lacks the moral coherency of the Reagan/Thatcher/Pope John Paul/Lech Walesa era of Western leadership. Such coherency is the only thing that could ever prevent Putin, or anyone like him, from batting around the free world and it’s penumbra like a chew toy.