Russia’s annexation of Crimea has upended fundamental assumptions about European security in the post–Cold War era. The use of force, violent nationalism, and land grabs are back in style, and a lengthy confrontation between East and West suddenly seems much closer at hand.
Apparently stunned by Russian belligerence, the United States and its European allies have been scrambling to find a way to deter further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, including through warnings and limited economic sanctions. Few believe, however, that these will have any significant effect on Russian behavior. They will neither cause Putin and his government to withdraw from Crimea nor change Russia’s willingness to use military force to “protect fellow Russians abroad,” wherever they may be. In fact, the West’s befuddled response has only played into the Kremlin’s hands; the Kremlin looks powerful while Washington and Brussels appear impotent and divided.
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