Staunton, March 12 - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters in Moscow and the West are explaining and justifying his invasion of Ukraine's Crimea in various ways and celebrating the divisions and weaknesses of the West that it has highlighted, but in every case, they are treating it as a geopolitical victory for the Kremlin. They could not be more wrong.
There are five reasons for what may seem to many a counter-intuitive conclusion, each of which must be kept in mind in the face of the bombast coming out of Moscow and the apologetics in some Western capitals for this latest example of Russian bad behavior and the ensuing arguments for not taking serious actions that would inflict a real punishment on Putin -- even and often because none contemplated could immediately reverse what he has done.
First, by invading Ukraine, Putin has guaranteed the rise of a far more anti-Russian state there than anyone could have imagined only a few weeks ago and the appearance of other anti-Russian states around Russia's perimeter. A few may be intimidated by Putin for a time and all would prefer to live in a more cooperative relationship with Russia, but Putin has made that impossible: in his world, Russia's neighbors must be its clients and subordinates, not free independent countries.
Indeed, the Kremlin leader has done two things that he had said he wanted to avoid: he has radicalized Ukrainian nationalism which from now on will be far more anti-Russian than it was in the past, and he has created the kind of cordon sanitaire of anti-Russian countries that he and his foreign policy minions routinely rail against. Unless the West is totally supine and tries to force these countries to cooperate with Moscow, he will "achieve" something that is a Pyrrhic victory at most.