Barring an unlikely change of heart, Russia has effectively annexed the Crimea from Ukraine. The use of troops without identifying patches and insignia was a cynical and clumsy ruse that fooled no one.
Indeed, for pure cynicism it’s hard to beat that while Russian President Vladimir Putin and other smiling top Kremlin officials were welcoming visitors to the winter games in Sochi, an Olympic event intended to promote international harmony, planning for the incursion was likely well under way.
The United States has a limited number of options to convince the Kremlin it made a mistake, one that can still be reversed. However, the United States is not without means of recourse.
The G8, the world’s eight largest industrial democracies, should not only move its upcoming summit from Sochi but consider excluding Russia altogether. It barely qualifies in any case; the World Bank ranks it as the world’s ninth largest economy and very soon it will be overtaken by India.
The United States and other Western nations should begin closing off Russia from the world banking system and denying visas to Russian officials who were actively complicit in the Crimean incursion.
The United States should suspend talks on pending trade agreements with Moscow. It’s not inconceivable that Russia will overplay its hand and cause Ukraine to split into a pro-European West and a pro-Moscow East. If that happens, we should stand ready with trade and aid and eventual membership in the European Union for the Western Ukraine.
A resolution denouncing the Russian action should be brought before the U.N. Security Council. The Russians will veto it, of course, but not before embarrassing themselves by having to defend Russia’s violation of international treaties.
The Obama administration should shed its customary caution and greatly increase its efforts to oust Russian ally Bashar Assad as president of Syria.
While no one thinks Russia’s land grab will result in a shooting war, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should postpone his plans to downsize the American military. Just in case, mind you.
Finally, President Barack Obama should curb his insistence on publicly explaining and rationalizing his foreign policy initiatives. The actions should speak for themselves.