It began with street demonstrations in Independence Square- the Maidan- in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, during late November of last year to protest then-Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich's rejection of closer economic ties with the European Union just to Ukraine's west in favor of even closer such ties with the Russian Federation of its President, Vladimir Putin: soon, however, the demonstrations became about more than the narrower focus of West vs. East- Europe vs. Russia; instead, and more and more, the 'Euro-Maidan' movement came to symbolize the frustration amongst many Ukrainians of what they saw as a corrupt government under Yanukovich (seen as Putin's puppet no less than is Russia's own Prime Minister- Dmitri Medvedev [who served as a "seat-warming" President for six years- with Putin as (allegedly) his Prime Minister- in between Putin's own two terms as the Russian Federation's Chief Executive])...
much like how New York City handled the rather similar 'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrations of a few years back now, the demonstrators in Kiev were- at first (and for a couple months, give or take)- allowed to peacefully so protest: that is, until the demonstrations were summarily proclaimed, by the Yanukovich government, as being unconstitutionally illegal... then, in late February last, came the bloodshed-- the direct result of street battles between Yanukovich's Berkut (riot police) and the demonstrators (some of whom were, in fact, ultra-nationalists prone to no little violence, although these were ever a minority within the general demonstrations going on) in which scores (mostly demonstrators- as well as medical personnel who attended to the wounded-- but, yes, some of the police, too) were killed and wounded. Ukrainians in general (even many in eastern Ukraine, home of Yanukovich's own more pro-Russian political base) were appalled by what took place-- indeed, the Ukrainian Parliament itself reacted and deposed Yanukovich who then simply fled to Russia (after which just how corrupt his regime had actually been could be revealed- via television and concomitant satellite uplink- to the world).
Parliament in Kiev, among other things, thereafter freed former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko- a hero of Ukraine's so-called 'Orange Revolution' of 2004/2005 which was largely undone after Yanukovich came to power by defeating her in the 2010 Presidential Election (a campaign during which Yanukovich [in]famously declared that Timoshenko should "take responsibility for every word uttered as Prime Minister or go back to the kitchen")- from prison where she had been held since the Fall of 2011 (after being arrested on charges filed against her largely on grounds that she had run a corrupt government during her two stints as Prime Minister under previous President Victor Yushchenko [her co-leader in the 'Orange Revolution' but with whom she had had a "falling out"]) and then began putting together an interim Government pending new elections for President of Ukraine on an accelerated schedule.
It was in response to these events in Kiev that, as February became March 2014, armed men with their faces covered and often wearing military uniforms without identifying insignia seized control of the headquarters of the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, a peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority (but also a significant percentage of anti-Russian Tatars who are also Muslim: Crimea had been part of the Ottoman [Turkish] Empire until 1783, when it was annexed to Czarina Catherine the Great's Russian Empire; after the breakup of that Empire in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolutions, Crimea was attached to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's Bolsheviks, the state that would become the core of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics first created at the end of 1922: after the death of Lenin's successor, Stalin, in 1953, then- new Soviet Communist Party boss Nikita Khrushchev made Crimea an autonomous part of Ukraine, a situation that survived the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and, then, was guaranteed in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 5 December 1994 in which Russia, the USofA and Great Britain all guaranteed the "territorial integrity" of Ukraine if Ukraine gave up its arsenal of nuclear weapons [China and France both later signed onto this deal, thus making all five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council its principal guarantors]).
Not long after the takeover of the Crimean government headquarters in the peninsula's capital, Simferopol, similar uniformed (without identifying insignia) "masked men" seized effective control of Crimea's civilian and military airports and then other transportation facilities (along with other crucial elements of Crimea's infrastructure): as of this typing, it is still unclear just how many of these gun-wielders are members of local civilian 'self-defense' units and how many might be Russian military operating covertly-- it also remains unclear just how much command over these military personnel might also be coming from Russia itself. However, television journalists and others in and around Crimea have presented enough visual evidence that, at least to some extent, the Russian Federation is currently seeking to exert its own military and political influence over Crimea in no little force (with much support from at least part of Crimea's population [these being the ethnic Russians of the peninsula]) and that these various military units already described have also been successfully preventing Ukrainian military units already in Crimea (after all, part of Ukraine under International Law [as already noted]) from themselves fully functioning (as I type this, Russian vessels continue to effectively blockade Ukrainian naval forces inside their own Crimean ports).
As a result, comparisons have lately been made between Putin and such as Adolf Hitler (involvement in Crimea on behalf of ethnic Russians reminding many of Hitler's annexation of the Sudetenland [the ethnic German northern and western fringes of early 20th Century Czechoslovakia] in the Fall of 1938-- although Putin's recent statements that he does not wish to unilaterally annex Crimea to his Russian Federation remind me more of Hitler having set up 'rump' Slovakia in the wake of the dismantling of the Czechoslovak state the following year [as a more pro-Russian government now governs Crimea quite apart from Ukraine, of which- as I've said- it is still nominally a part]).
An alternative view of Putin and his and his government's recent actions, however, suggests that the Russian President has been unfairly demonized- where not even somewhat dehumanized- by Western journalists, historians and Foreign Policy 'talking heads' alike, even before this recent 'Ukrainian Crisis' (but even more so of late). This contrarian argument generally revolves around the notion that- compared to the long lists of Czars (and Czarinas) of All the Russias and General Secretaries of the Soviet Communist Party- Putin is, in fact, the most "liberal" of all such leaders in all of Russian History so far and that his actions, therefore, are to be better considered from his own perspective and that of his government.
One hundred years ago as I type this, then-American President Woodrow Wilson would certainly have been considered "liberal"- perhaps even more liberal than any other President of the United States had been up to that time; and, certainly, as compared to his two immediate predecessors in the White House (both of whom he had defeated in the 1912 Presidential Election)- William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt! Indeed, the ongoing context of what has come to be called 'Wilsonian liberal internationalism' (which has, over time, fostered such organizations as the United Nations) has, indeed, become one of the flashpoints within the subtext of, especially, 'Tea Party' vs. 'RINO' within the Republican Party- let alone disputes between these last and liberal Democrats- no less than has such a thing as 'Obamacare' (the 'Black Helicopter' faction within the Right here in America certainly reflects the deepest, darkest fears within 'anti-Wilsonianism'; indeed, controversial broadcast commentator and author Glenn Beck himself once named Wilson #1 overall amongst his 'Top Ten Bastards of All Time' [??!!]-- ahead of Hitler, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and even Pol Pot of 'Democratic Kampuchea' [or, if you happen to be an old Dead Kennedys fan: Holiday in Cambodia] fame!).
Yet Wilson- who had been a professional historian before his career as politician- was also the one who would, a year later, excitedly declare to be "History writ with lightning!" the D.W. Griffith-directed silent film The Birth of a Nation, based on Thomas Dixon, Jr.'s novel (and, then, play) The Clansman: a movie credited with fueling the birth of the so-called 'second' Ku Klux Klan (which would rise to significant political power in several States [including more than a few Northern States (including my own New Jersey)!] in the mid-1920s); a movie which includes scenes of, amongst other things, African-Americans in a Reconstruction era State Legislature sneaking a swig of 'hooch' from a jug right in the middle of a legislative session (and this, of course, is one of the "tamer" among the many overtly racist depictions of Blacks in that 1915 film [a film I have seen more than a few times, by the way-- beginning in one of my U.S. History classes back at Boston University (in the context, therein, of examining racial attitudes in the United States in the years immediately preceding its entry into World War I)])...
surely, no liberal (and, indeed, none amongst at least the vast majority of conservatives- even some conservative Populists [for Race yet factors within at least some elements of the most conservative Populism]) in America today would accept such a depiction as being at all valid (certainly not in a year in which the film 12 Years a Slave has won 'Best Picture' at the Academy Awards!).
The point here is that political "liberality"- no less than any other political ideology- is ever relative to the times in which it is so perceived, as well as to History itself (but, obviously, only History up to that particular point in time): this being part and parcel of that very concept known as 'Historical Sense'. Thus, it may well be true that Vladimir Putin is, indeed, the "most liberal" Russian leader in the long history of that country-- but so what? (Or, perhaps, the real question here should, instead, be: 'Compared to what?'!)
This all very much brings back, to my own mind, at least some long-ago memories of a summertime visit to my maternal grandparents' home in Connecticut (I was already living in New Jersey by then): Educational Television (this being before the creation of America's Public Broadcasting System) on Channel 13 out of New York City happened to- while I was up there- broadcast a documentary on the aforementioned Russian Revolutions of 1917 (this was back in 1967 and thus, at the time, the 50th Anniversary of those events) and I joined my grandfather in front of the television set down in his cellar as he watched this documentary with rather intense interest (my maternal grandfather, an immigrant from Finland, had turned 10 years old in 1917 and well remembered the events of the Finnish Civil War of 1918, engendered once Finland had declared independence from Russia in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution [his own home town of Vaasa had, in fact, become- during that internecine conflict- the de facto capital of the 'White' (anti-Bolshevik) forces in Finland (as the 'Reds' had- at the time- taken over Helsinki, the de jure capital of his "Old Country")]-- in fact, his own father [my great-grandfather] had once even been conscripted into the Russian Army of Czar Nicholas II during the earliest years of the 20th Century [my great-grandfather was a railroad engineer and ended up operating trains on the then-new Trans-Siberian Railway] and there was much, in this documentary, about that era as well [as the Russian Revolution of 1905 (which took place while my great-grandfather was still stationed in Siberia!) itself engendered by the defeat of Czarist Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/1905, well foreshadowed the events of 1917 in Russia]).
Besides the obvious- my own feelings, while watching this (with my grandfather providing occasional "running commentary", as it were, about how those long-ago events we were then vicariously witnessing on the television screen more or less directly related to the Finland of his own childhood), caused by my then being (I was 11 years old in 1967) not much older than my grandfather himself had been during the aforementioned Finnish Civil War- there was one thing about this documentary that has ever stuck in my mind: its ending-- which was, simply, a scene of everyday Soviet citizens of the mid-1960s going about their daily business while the narration over this said something to the effect that "the Russian people of today are freer than they have ever been in their long history" which (despite this being right smack dab in the middle of the Cold War while we in the United States were engaged in vociferous argument- where not even outright social unrest- over our own country's participation in a Vietnam Conflict related thereto) was itself quite true!...
but, again, compared to what? (And I wonder- as I now, once again, think about having seen that televised documentary now almost a half century ago [roughly the same amount of time having passed since the mid-1960s and that which had elapsed between the mid-1960s and 1917]- just what the reaction to such a statement might well have been across the length and breadth of proverbial 'Middle America' back then-- during what was denominated a 'Long, Hot Summer' filled with Race Riots- most notably in Detroit, but also in Newark and Plainfield, not all that far from my own home in Jersey- and an alleged 'Summer of Love', based in San Francisco's Haight/Ashbury, but which also had included an anti-war March on the Pentagon outside of D.C.?).
So, yes, the immediate post-Khrushchev era in the Soviet Union of that time may well have been- if only, of course, in a relative sense- more "liberal" within itself than was Czarist Russia (or, certainly, even the era of Stalin) and, by comparison, the current Putin era in today's Russian Federation may well be "more liberal" than even that!...
but this does not at all excuse the actions of Putin's government and, therefore, "try[ing] to see it [his] way" whilst, say, humming the melody to the Beatles' We Can Work It Out (speaking of the mid-1960s!) is not particularly germane to the discussion at bar.
Fact is: Putin has, indeed, sent at least the vanguard the Russian military to occupy (for that is exactly what it is-- occupation of) territory which, under norms of International Law, is currently de jure part of Ukraine (despite Crimea's long-standing status as an 'Autonomous Republic').
But- while we, the United States and its allies, surely cannot let this stand- what can the West really do about this right now?
Already, critics of the Obama Administration have been "piling on"-- for instance, claiming that Putin's boldness as regards Crimea is, somehow, a result of concomitant American weakness (where- in this case, at least- the alternative view of such things already cited above is actually somewhat telling: for here we have the old, discredited Cold War-era "zero sum game" model [in which- in oversimplified Black vs. White fashion- Black advances only because White has purposively retreated] once again raising its ugliest head).
For instance, Senator John McCain [R-Arizona]- the first of two Republican presidential nominees to have lost National Elections to President Obama- had, just the other day, publicly claimed that what Putin is doing in Crimea in particular and Ukraine in general is the ultimate result of a feckless Foreign Policy in which nobody believes in America's strength anymore. Oh-- really?!
As I have already said elsewhere on this website (especially- and for most obvious reasons- during the 2008 Presidential Election campaign), Senator McCain is a bona fide hero of the aforementioned Vietnam Conflict: neither I nor anyone else can ever- nor should even try to- take that singular distinction away from him. Having said this, however, McCain- not only as a veteran of that war (and one who, as a result of his service to his Nation therein, spent so many years as a "guest" of the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton'), but also as a leading member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee- should know better! For just how many Republicans are now entering the 2014 Midterm Election "Primary season" campaigning on the premise 'Hey, guess what? Your son or daughter, your sister or brother (even- to, perhaps, more than a few first time voters this time round- your father or mother) might soon get the opportunity to fight, be wounded, even die to keep Crimea (or, for that matter, oblasts with names like Kharkivska or Donetska) within Ukraine!'?...
no, as I myself expected, I don't see all that many-- if any-- either!
Oh, yes-- I well know the argument out forth by those preaching such as McCain's position above to their respective "choir"s; and it's an argument that goes back at least a couple years to events in Syria:
Syria- devolved into bloody civil war as 2012 became 2013 and is now 2014- is, after all (and like Ukraine), a borderland astride America's '3rd Empire' (as defined by membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [of which Turkey, Syria's northern neighbor, is a Member-State]). Unlike the case re: Libya in 2011, neither the United States nor its NATO allies committed the kind of military support to Syria that one saw in Libya (largely because the Obama Administration well knew- and yet knows, as much as might any of its critics- that al Qa'eda [or, at least, al Qa'eda-wannabes such as ISIS (the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria')] were- and are- playing a significant role within the general opposition to Syria's al-Assad regime; 'Benghazi 2012 Sept 11' aside, the overthrow of Gadhafi around a year before that particular event did not more directly involve such elements [though, yes, they ever lurked])...
and, yes, such reluctance to engage a more direct US/NATO involvement in Syria did, and very much so, give Putin the opening to publicly back Bashar al-Assad.
But I don't recall, back in 2012- nor do I even see now, in early 2014- any real groundswell of popular support, here in the United States, for direct military action (if not "boots on the ground", then sending warplanes to enforce a 'no-fly' zone) in Syria-- certainly not when American troops have so lately pulled out of Iraq and are, at the same time, potentially drawing down in Afghanistan!
GOP backbiters can certainly well harp on "Emperor" Barack, thereby, being weak as regards Foreign Policy for their own domestic political purposes (if only because they, right now, have nothing all that much better to do)-- but the citizenry of the very metropole of Barack's 'Empire' itself doesn't seem all that predisposed to go "whole hog" into Syria in order to topple al-Assad in the manner in which either the Taliban or Saddam Hussein were each toppled now more than a decade ago-- and it isn't just liberal Democrats- or moderate 'RINO's- who are so not predisposed!
Of course, Vladimir Putin likely took all due notice of just such a lack of predisposition... but just how did President Obama (re-elected in 2012, by the way) fail in this regard through his not doing that which the vast majority of his own People (even amongst many of those who didn't vote for him) did- and still do- not even want him to do? McCain's word "feckless" has, as synonyms, 'careless' or 'irresponsible': but how was/is it either irresponsible or careless to avoid military confrontations in which the American People themselves do not wish to have their Nation's soldiers or sailors, airmen or Marines, now engage in their name?!
Rather than a lack of "belief" in "American strength", it seems- instead- that there is all due recognition inside Obama's White House- as well as both the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom- as to when such strength has to be applied most judiciously (after all, I'm going to soon be 58 years old: yet I'm still strong enough to shovel my own driveway after an ordinary snowstorm-- but even *I* know when to have to call [and all too often during *this* Winter up here in the American Northeast!] the guy with the plow attached to a heavy pickup truck if there happens to be too much snow and the town's snowplows have also put up a wall of snow a foot or more high at the end of my driveway as a result of their clearing my street of snow!)-- and not having the strongest backing of the "bell curve" of the electorate (even if such reluctance might well be the result of mere "war-weariness" amongst the populace in these post-9/11 [both 9/11s-- 2012, as well as 2001!] times) evinces lack of Political Will- among the American People, as opposed to the current American Administration- to more directly bring American strength to immediately bear, no matter how much one might wish to so "believe" in same!
Yet it is quite true that what is going on in Ukraine is, in fact, directly tied to what Putin himself most discerned out of how we- not just the United States of America, but also its NATO allies- have handled (or not) the ongoing civil war in Syria-- for two reasons:
- 1. the obvious one that he has calculated we in the West will not at all respond militarily (although economic/financial responses might well be another matter) to whatever actions- even military ones beyond mere geopolitical intimidation- he might take so long as these remain "close to home" (that is: where Putin can, however convolutedly, claim a more or less direct connection to 'Russian interests' [which he can then "sell" within Russia itself, regardless of the reaction "out there"]): in this regard, then, Iran (in relation to its potential for, eventually, building and stockpiling nuclear weapons) and Syria (for reasons aforesaid) have been "close enough"-- Ukraine in general, and the Crimea in particular, closer still!;
- 2.the not so obvious one that, as regards both Syria and Iran, NATO's reaction was- at best- mixed, even though NATO member-state Turkey borders both countries: in other words, the American "Emperor" failed to act effectively (from Putin's perspective, that is) in addressing issues within the borderlands of "his" (meaning, President Obama's) 'Empire'; in contrast, Putin is now responding quite differently to similar distress (as he and his Russian Federation government sees it) within the borderlands of his 'Empire'... thus, the "elected Czar" (Putin) is here acting far more decisively than America's "elected King become Emperor" has lately been able to: to that "Czar", this- more than much else- defines a key difference between Russian and American Power. (Also, by the way, keep in mind that aforementioned NATO ally Turkey also happens to be just across the Black Sea from all these goings-on in Crimea: so much attention is paid to the four Eastern European NATO allies bordering Ukraine [Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania] that this rather important factoid is, all too often, being overlooked).
I disagree with Senator McCain on another matter in this regard: in a recent television interview, McCain argued that Putin principally wishes to restore the "Russian Empire"-- I presume that the Senator here meant a post-Soviet Russian version of the Soviet Union without all the "wheels-within-wheels" of actual soviets, as opposed to that very entity historians call 'the Russian Empire' which was in existence from 1547 (when Ivan 'the Terrible', Grand Duke of Moscow, first took on the title Czar) until 1917 (and the first of those two Revolutions in Russia that year about which my grandfather and I would be watching a televised documentary half a century later)... of course, in reality, it matters not which McCain was actually referring to.
No-- instead, Putin is all about 'Mother Russia' itself, as well as first and foremost: its culture (hence, his [in?]famous jailing of the female punk band Pussy Riot for Blasphemy against the Russian Orthodox Church [an institution Soviet Russia had no real need of but which- Theology aside- Putin finds most useful for his own purposes in this post-Soviet era]) and political institutions (how far Putin's alleged "liberalism"- already discussed above- stretches [or not] is certainly most clearly seen where demonstrators against his own military's machinations in Crimea are detained while demonstrations in favor are allowed, even encouraged, to carry on to the point of even blocking ordinary traffic). He and his minions within his government have clearly come to be believe, almost to the point of outright delusion, that which they have ever professed: that Russians outside Russia amongst that which the Russians themselves call "the Near Abroad" (not just in Ukraine, but also in the Baltic States as well as Moldova [note that such threats are not at all seen in a Belarus now so well under Putin's own "thumb"]) are under direct threat of attack and that only his Russian Federation can come to their aid...
and so Putin and other Russian government officials stoke the embers of long-ago conflicts, hoping that they once again burst into flame and, thereby, give Russia 'cover' (however flimsy it might be) to, perhaps, take even broader action (even though Russia's claims of "Nazis" now running the Ukrainian government following the ouster of Putin's one-time "man in Kiev", Yanukovich, are altogether far-fetched).
Thus, those fighting for Democracy and Transparency- and against Corruption and for Rule of Law (not all of whom, it has to be admitted [as I already have in my summary of how we got to this point in what is now branded the 'Ukraine Crisis' at the very start of this piece], are wonderful characters themselves, to be sure!)- in the streets of Kiev are branded, by Putin and his minions, "Fascists": veritable "sleeper cells" (asleep, that is, for generations-- but now, once again, awakened) of now post-Nazis hell-bent on bringing that destruction and death to eastern Ukraine and the Crimea once visited upon these same lands by Hitler's armies nearly three-quarters of a century before (and this purposefully playing up and on the feeling, among ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine [not just Crimea], that those now "running the show" in western Ukraine are the moral equivalent of those who had once so willingly collaborated with the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS, even though- of course- no one now under the age of 70 in any part of Ukraine could have ever actually done so!).
In reality, however, such demonstrations in Kiev and elsewhere across Ukraine that ended up causing the downfall of Yanukovich are all about those seeing the comparative prosperity just to their west (even in the midst of more than a half-decade of Recession) and comparing it to that which is less desirable to their east and then making their own decisions about in which direction to now turn: for the disparity between oligarch and ordinary citizen in Russia is, in truth, far vaster than any '1% versus 99%' in the mind of the most ardent 'Occupy'er over here and the nefarious machinations of the Market within the Russian Federation are far more corrupt- as well as corrupting- than anything the average 'Tea Party'er here in the United States can at all conjure in his or her own mind about the Federal Reserve!...
plaintive cries, by Americans, of "I want my Country back!", then, are nothing compared to the "bogeymen" the ethnic Russians within Ukraine, themselves whipped into something of a frenzy by Putinesque propaganda, have come to most fear. Putin and his government, therefore, are merely responding to that proverbial "echo of his own voice"!
But- again- I here repeat a rather (if it not even be the most) important question already posed above: What can the West really do about this right now?
With a significant military option so "off the table" (especially given the fact that the majority even within the very metropole of America's 'Empire'- the United States itself- does not seem to want to act so forcefully), this leaves only Diplomacy and Finance- both being, of course, interrelated.
Diplomacy is here the proverbial "carrot": the West- USofA and EU in concert- trying to get Russian representatives to at least meet with representatives of the new interim government of Ukraine (a rather tall order, considering that- despite having been unceremoniously "kicked to the curb" by Putin himself [just what is the Russian for "You're now dead to me!"?]- Yanukovich is still regarded, by the Kremlin, to be the legitimate President of Ukraine and the interim government of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and interim President Alexander Turchinov to merely be the result of a "Fascist coup d'etat" [for reasons already described earlier in this piece]: thus, at least for now, it seems that the only place in which Ukraine's own diplomats can directly confront those of the Russian Federation is inside the chamber of the UN Security Council in New York)...
and Finance is the proverbial "stick": the problem here being that financial sanctions against Russia are potentially harmful to much of Europe (Russian energy- in the form of crude oil and natural gas- flows through Ukraine to Europe; in addition, many a EU member and/or NATO ally has important contracts- both civilian and military- in Russia and Russian investments flow through- where they are not even ensconced in- European banks [the dirtiest, yet open, "secret" here being that Putin and his cronies have used many such investments to launder money unceremoniously removed from the Russia's public treasury for private benefit: what Yanukovich and his own once did in Ukraine is maximized, in a "corruption of scale", inside the much larger Russian Federation]).
Yes, 'tis true that some of these same financial relationships Europe has with the Russian Federation can also be said of the United States of America, too!...
but the good ol' USofA is not so tied into such things as is Europe (and, in addition, many of the Russian wealthy own some pretty nice slices of American Real Property over which both State and the Federal Governments have no little regulatory- where not also criminal- jurisdiction). Thus, what will likely have to happen here (unless, of course, the whole situation in Crimea in particular and Ukraine in general- as if by magic- returns to the status quo ante in the immediate aftermath of Yanukovich's ouster) is that "Emperor" Barack will have to "step up" in service of the 'Empire' and take the lead (as well as the "hit") in relation to imposing such sanctions on Russia (with or without Europe): it would, thereafter, be a case of "Follow-- or Get Out of the Way!" (For his own part, Putin has already threatened retaliatory sanctions on both EU and USA financial and business interests inside Russia: such threats are not "zero-sum", however-- for Russia depends heavily on revenue generated from its own economic and financial interests in the West [besides, if such revenue is so reduced, there is then also so much less to steal!]).
In this regard, then, Obama's handling of this 'Ukrainian Crisis' will, almost certainly, prove to be the harshest test of his own Presidency (which is also why the very subject matter of this Commentary of mine is so directly related to those American Politics and Elections we more usually deal with here on The Green Papers). Meanwhile, events in and around Ukraine ever proceed apace: pro-Russian and pro-Kiev factions in Donetsk (the capital of one of the oblasts in eastern Ukraine I referred to, in passing, earlier in this piece) have been "trading Fours" for the last few days as regards which country's flag- Russia's or Ukraine's- gets to fly over the headquarters of the regional government-- and, even as I prepare to send this Commentary in for posting on The Green Papers, there is news of the United Nations' own envoy to Crimea- Robert Serry of the Netherlands- having been forced, by a large contingent of the aforementioned "masked men", to abandon the mission on which he had been personally sent by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon...
things are ugly-- and, yes, they could yet get uglier-- as I write, often enough, at the end of these Commentaries of mine: Stay tuned!