Here’s What Is Going to Happen With Ukraine

A trade union building being seized in Simferopol, Ukraine.Stanislav Krasilnikov/ITAR-TASS/ZUMA

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Following up on the previous post, if you do want to fret about Ukraine, I have just the thing for you. I’m going to tell you how this will all unfold:

  1. Vladimir Putin will do something belligerent. (Already done.)
  2. Republicans will demand that we show strength in the face of Putin’s provocation. Whatever it is that we’re doing, we should do more.
  3. President Obama will denounce whatever it is that Putin does. But regardless of how unequivocal his condemnation is, Bill Kristol will insist that he’s failing to support the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
  4. Journalists will write a variety of thumbsuckers pointing out that our options are extremely limited, what with Ukraine being 5,000 miles away and all.
  5. John McCain will appear on a bunch of Sunday chat shows to bemoan the fact that Obama is weak and no one fears America anymore.
  6. Having written all the “options are limited” thumbsuckers, journalists and columnists will follow McCain’s lead and start declaring that the crisis in Ukraine is the greatest foreign policy test of Obama’s presidency. It will thus supplant Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, and North Korea for this honor.
  7. In spite of all the trees felled and words spoken about this, nobody will have any good ideas about what kind of action might actually make a difference. There will be scattered calls to impose a few sanctions here and there, introduce a ban on Russian vodka imports, convene NATO, demand a UN Security Council vote, etc. None of this will have any material effect.
  8. Obama will continue to denounce Putin. Perhaps he will convene NATO. For their part, Republicans will continue to insist that he’s showing weakness and needs to get serious.
  9. This will all continue for a while.
  10. In the end, it will all settle down into a stalemate, with Russia having thrown its weight around in its near abroad—just like it always has—and the West not having the leverage to do much about it.
  11. Ukraine will….

Actually, there’s no telling about #11. Maybe Ukraine will choose (or have foisted on them) a pro-Russian leader that Putin is happy with. Maybe east and west will split apart. Maybe a nominally pro-Western leader will emerge. Who knows? What we do know is that (a) the United States will play only a modest role in all this, and (b) conservative hawks will continue to think that if only we’d done just a little bit more, Putin would have blinked and Ukraine would be free.

You may now go about your regular weekend business.

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