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It is time to imagine what once seemed impossible: In addition to Crimea, Putin attempts to annex the other southeastern Ukrainian provinces that are generally regarded as most susceptible to conquest -- Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhya. Ukraine would be the immediate loser but might find itself better off in the long run. Russia, on the other hand, would quickly discover that it is in possession of economically unviable provinces that cannot survive without massive infusions of rubles.
For a long time, France and Germany have had the most say over Europe's trajectory. But as the EU tries to move eastward, including to places like Ukraine, it is Germany and Russia that will decide who is in and who is out -- and under what terms.
Hagel bills this year's proposed U.S. defense budget as a novelty. The New York Times portrays it as an antiquity. Senator Lindsey Graham paints it as a travesty. In truth, it is none of those things. Rather, the proposed budget represents a continuation of nearly three years of defense retrenchment, which is modest in scope and prudent in purpose.
In a Palestinian refugee camp just outside Damascus, 18,000 Palestinian refugees are slowly and deliberately being starved by the Syrian dictatorship. The atrocity has urgent implications for the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar, claiming that Doha was violating a clause in the Gulf Cooperation Council charter not to interfere in the domestic affairs of fellow members. The decision, unprecedented in the council's history, hints at significant changes to come for the GCC and the balance of power in the Gulf.
Internationally, Putin might seem the master grand strategist, and at home, he appears equally in command. It would be a mistake, however, to overestimate Putin or Russia -- or to underestimate how badly his gambit in Ukraine could turn out for him.
Putin seems to have embraced anti-Western nationalism to drum up domestic support, but evidence suggests that it will not work. For one thing, he is actually much less popular among Russians who are hostile toward the West than among those with pro-Western views.
The West has managed to rapidly integrate several countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain. But there is no precedent for quickly integrating a country like Ukraine. Without Russia, Ukraine would have no economic, financial, or cultural viability.
The situation in Ukraine cuts to the heart of the EU's promise -- and challenges -- as a foreign policy actor. The union still has a powerful pull for many countries, but it is sorely limited in its ability to respond to crises. It might not be able to wrest Crimea forcibly from a determined Putin, for example, but its emphasis on human security and international law will have a stealthy impact on Ukraine's evolution for years to come.
The surest way to counter Russia is to help the government in Kiev restore its legitimacy through elections that bring to power a representative president and parliament, regardless of geopolitical loyalties. Nothing is more important to Ukraine’s European future.
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