Putin's Play

What Happens After Russia Intervenes in Ukraine

A Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014. Baz Ratner / Courtesy Reuters

A week ago, I wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to lose “all his geopolitical marbles” to try to “break off bits of Ukraine,” such as Crimea. If this weekend’s events are any indication, he has. Russian troops have invaded Crimea, and Putin has declared his right to keep them “on the territory of Ukraine until social-political conditions in that country normalize.” In other words, Putin claimed that he can send Russian armed forces ­anywhere in the country, not just Crimea, and that he may leave them there until his definition of normalization is met -- which might be never.

The international community, caught off guard by Putin’s move, must now try to grapple with why he did what he did, and with what comes next. The question of why he invaded Crimea is complicated. Just before the move, experts had been skeptical about his resolve.

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