I've been watching the uncontested annexation of Crimea by Russia over the past several days with astonishment. President Obama, America, and the rest of the world have basically shrugged the whole thing off. Obviously everyone is "deeply concerned", but apparently no one is going to actually do anything.
Obama expressed "deep concern" over Russia's moves, suggested Putin's troops leave and warned the occupation "would negatively impact Russia's standing in the international community." ...
Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest Obama's passivity toward Putin is connected to the American's overheard promise of post-election "flexibility" to Putin's predecessor back in 2012. So, we won't.
Here's how Col. Putin responded to Obama's words of warning: He sent more Russian troops into Crimea.
Mead points out that Putin will probably keep Crimea and steal whatever aid the West gives to Ukraine.
Now Putin seems to be seizing the most important military assets Russia holds in the country and can reasonably hope to increase Russia's influence throughout the country as a weak government struggles with intractable problems. Meanwhile, he is probably licking his chops over the unpalatable choices Western statesmen now face. If the West doesn't ship billions of dollars to Ukraine, the current government will fail and national unity will fray. If the West comes across with the dough, Putin has a number possibilities for working the situation to his benefit. He can, for example, raise the natural gas price to a Ukraine flush with Western aid dollars, or demand repayment of Ukraine's existing debts to Moscow, transferring Western aid money into Russian pockets.
Maybe the calculation is that Russia is in a demographic death spiral anyway, so what's the point of fighting over territory that is full of people who seem to want to be a part of Russia.
It seems that Obama's calcuation in international crises is always to do nothing. Syria, Iran, Crimea, Snowden, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq.... It's hard to see how "do nothing" is always in the interests of the world's Superpower.