In short, we should do very little. The question of secession or annexation is rarely one that can be answered objectively and consistently. Russia has vociferously opposed the separation of Chechnya, while fostering that of Ossetia and Abkhazia. The US opposes its moves in Crimea, but got the whole of NATO to support an even flimsier operation in Kosovo in 1999. I’ve always had a view that when separationist movements get too hot, it’s probably best for everyone to let them go, whether we’re talking Ireland, the West Bank, or most other places.
Smart people are saying smart things, while the usual noisy proponents of New World Order see everything as another repeat of the German Anschluss. Andrew Bacevich exposes this stupid, cliched, and historically uneven thinking in his column.
Henry Kissinger says sensible things, as usual, noting that expanding NATO to Russia’s doorstep would be particularly unwise.
Finally, Jeffrey Tayler, in Foreign Policy, shows us that Putin is acting, if harshly, at least rationally and predictably. And, as such, there are rational ways we can respond (or not) based on our own permanent interests, which should not I think include deep concern for Russia’s re-acquisition of a territory it had until the 1950s and whose people seemingly support Russia’s intervention.
On a more pro interventionist note, my friend Marek Chodakiewicz gave a long and detailed discussion of all things Ukrainian recently at the Institute for World Politics. I haven’t had the opportunity to review it in depth, but I’m confident from private discussions it will be one of the more sensible counterpoints to my own views, expressed roughly by Bacevich & co.