Just click the link to the latest from Richard Fernandez on the off chance that you haven’t read “It’s Too Late Baby” already. I’ll quote one bit just long enough to launch into my own mini rant below it:
Given the ax is about to fall, the questions that remain unanswered are whether the Russian advance will precipitate a civil war in Ukraine and how far Russia will go before it stops of its own accord. Kerry evidently hopes Russia will restrain itself, since there is nothing else that will stop it. The administration is in the position of hoping the bank robber, in this case Putin, will leave content after only taking fifty bucks from the till. By why should he? From the robber’s point of view, the risks come in packets. Once you’ve begun the hold-up, you might as well clean out the vault as leave with $50. It’s the same crime.
Putin finds himself at something of a crossroads, albeit one of his own making. As things stand now, he can defuse the current crisis by standing down his army opposite the eastern Ukraine, giving the White House a face-saving out on “allowing” Russia to keep the Crimean Peninsula. That’s certainly what the Wiggleroom Administration must be hoping for, given that they still need Putin on a variety of foreign policy issues.
The other road Putin might take is far riskier, but the payout is far greater. He very well might continue to escalate the crisis in the Ukraine — make bigger demands, invade the Russified eastern provinces. He could perhaps even broaden the crisis to include Belarus or Kazakhstan. As long as Putin is playing the historical/cultural grievance card, we should take note that Belarus is historically as much a part of Great Russia as Ukraine is, and that Kazakhstan is about one-quarter ethnic Russian — mostly concentrated in the northern part of the country adjacent to Russian Siberia.
I doubt Putin would go that far — yet. But raising the stakes in Ukraine makes a certain amount of thuggish sense. With the White House so desperate for a way out, why the hell shouldn’t Putin use the present crisis to completely humiliate the United States, and perhaps shatter NATO in the process? The alliance wouldn’t dissolve on paper, but hopefully Western Europe and certainly Poland and the Baltic States could be shown the futility of keeping their wagons hitched to Wiggleroom’s weak horse.
The risks for Putin include sanctions and perhaps even a low-level but persistent insurrection in some of his “new” territories. But the payoff could include a neutered Western alliance and the restoration of Russian influence perhaps as far west as the Oder-Neisse Line.
It’s a big gamble, but we’ve seen Vlad the Bad throw the dice before.
UPDATE: Whatever Putin’s international ambitions, while we’re watching Crimea, he’s “cleaning house” in Moscow.