“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as if all of the actions that Russia and the rest of the world undertake are determined solely by how the United States will respond. The simple fact is that Russia’s actions are more affected by domestic politics and by their historical relations with the Eastern European states that only a short time ago were Soviet satellite states. Russian president Vladimir Putin will continue to act in what he deems are Russia’s best interests. There is no denying that, and it’s no use complaining he’s behaving in “19th-century fashion” in the 21st century, as Secretary of State John Kerry recently said. However, the threat of international isolation does actually carry weight in Russia, and Putin must keep it in mind as he moves forward.
There is no war waiting for the U.S. and NATO in Ukraine. While it seems Putin hoped he could pull off a brilliant repeat of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, he is sadly mistaken. However, although the Washington Post’s editorial staff argues that Putin “will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements,” the Russian president has obviously taken measure of American statements. Increased American involvement in NATO air patrols and a meeting of the NATO nations called by Poland have not put us on the path to war but instead have shown Putin he must play his cards carefully. Putin and the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov continue to deny the presence of Russian troops in the Crimean peninsula. The continued restraint by the interim Ukrainian government in Kiev has forced the Russian government into a situation where they cannot acknowledge their presence in the Crimea and cannot take any aggressive action. If they begin attacking Ukrainian forces, it is clear the Kiev government will respond in kind, and unlike Georgia, Kiev will have allies in a defensive fight against clear military aggression.
In response to the request for foreign observers in the Crimean peninsula, Russia argues it is up to Ukrainian and Crimean authorities, and the Ukrainian government has invited observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, according to The Guardian. The continued scrutiny of actions in the peninsula has allowed the peace to hold, and it will likely continue to hold. American and NATO allies are not interested in a war in Ukraine, and neither is Russia. While they both vie for influence over the outcome and the governments that will follow, the cost, both material and diplomatic, is too high for either side to be willing to accept.