Staunton, July 27 – Having taken the measure of the West and found it wanting, Vladimir Putin has expanded his aggression from the military occupation of Crimea to the organization of irredentist insurgencies in eastern Ukraine to the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner to the shelling of Ukrainian targets from the territory of the Russian Federation.
All these steps are acts of war. But in response, Western leaders have done nothing Putin cannot live with. On the one hand, the sanctions regimes they have imposed or talked about have not hurt him. Instead, they have allowed him to deflect attention from his own failures at home. And if anything, they have contributed to his popularity there.
If the West continues with economic sanctions being the only thing on the table and with those being leaky and incomplete at best as the French sales of warships to Moscow and the German purchases of Russian gas ensure that it will be, Putin thus has little reason to stop what he has doing. Indeed, he may conclude he has ever more reason to engage in aggression now.
What is Putin likely to do next? Unless the Ukrainian military is more successful than the continuing influx of Russian materiel and manpower makes likely, the Kremlin leader almost certainly will move in the coming weeks to occupy more of Ukraine. As was true with Hitler and the Sudetenland, Putin wants far more than Donetsk and Luhansk. He wants Kyiv.
Won't everyone be surprised when Kyiv, a city where mass protests against the Russian backed president who fled to Russia, "freely" vote to join Russia, ala Crimean style. Back in WWII, the Russian invaders held fake elections in Poland as well.
Related link: Putin is Waging War While the West is Talking Sanctions ~ The Interpreter