If memory serves, it was Obama who said that the West would counter Putin’s nineteenth century actions with twenty-first century methods. Really?
If rule by violent men is nineteenth century, he was half right. Putin rules Russia through violence. He invaded and annexed Crimea. He is instigating violence in east Ukraine and will have war there, one way or another. Putin is a violent man, leading a country full of violent men.
The West’s counter? Talk. Meaningless sanctions. Threats — unlikely to be carried out — of real sanctions. These will not stop Putin; he knows that the West values its comforts too much to take effective action.
History teaches that talk only encourages violent men to further violence. Only a greater force can stop those who live by violence, and the longer it takes to apply that force, the greater the ensuing destruction.
So long as the West abjures force, Putin, his allies, and his successors will keep winning. Eventually, they will go too far but, by then, the tyrannies will be far more dangerous. There will be war and the West will win, if anyone does, but the cost will be countless lives, not the mere wealth that prompt action would have cost.
A day has passed since I wrote the words above. Today, lives have been lost among the Ukrainian security forces, and escalation seems certain. Will today, April 13, 2014, be remembered for the first shots of World War III? Unless the West acts soon and with adequate force, it well may.