Though the world is mesmerized by the disappearance of a jumbo-jet somewhere in Asia or over the Indian Ocean, Crimea and Ukraine remain the center of a major crisis. Russia seems impervious to Western diplomatic pressure as Crimea heads for a weekend referendum on its future. Will Crimea declare its independence and then move for union with Russia, as seems likely? And if it does, what can the West do? Military action is out, and economic sanctions won’t work in the short run. This is a crisis of major proportions.
Close to 10,000 Russian troops have been deployed for suspicious military exercises near the Ukrainian border. It is hard to believe they will cross that border, because the international consequences will be immense. But then who would have believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would organize a Russian takeover of its former Crimea province, because that is what the March 16 referendum in Crimea is all about. Putin is playing hardball with Ukraine and the West, with an attitude of “damn the consequences.” Or so it seems.
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