I don’t understand why much of the commentary about Putin’s land grab of Crimea, and his drip drip drip invasion of eastern Ukraine is portrayed as though he were able to out flank the West because he can “read” the West, but the West is at a loss to “understand” Putin.
In my opinion it does not take a genius “analyst” to understand Putin’s strategy or his intentions. As far as I am concerned, he is an open book — a lying, cheating low down scoundrel, even worse than Obama.
Putin laid out his blueprint for land annexation in his takeover of Crimea and he followed/is following that blueprint in east Ukraine. So much is obvious.
If the West chooses to sit on its hands and do nothing decisive in response, that’s their choice, and they do so simply because they rather vacillate and hope the problem disappears magically of its own accord. It is not because they underestimate Putin’s threat. It would be impossible for any living sentient person to underestimate the threat. No-one in the West can be that stupid.
I disagree that you have to be a “russian expert” to be able to get in the mind of Putin. Any man in the street who has been following events in the east of Ukraine and elsewhere, where Putin has been meddling, would be able to tell you, “Hey, Putin is a great devotee of underhand, thuggish behavior, and needs to be stopped. All you need to do to stop him is to respond with a little of your own underhand thuggishness and he will very soon get the message”.
For example, why not hit him with sanctions in a surprising way, rather than telegraphing their implementation, and who they are going to hit, days and weeks in advance? It should be, one day nothing, the next day, Bang! Sanctions on totally unsuspecting individuals and entities. Then more sanctions, keep it up for weeks, just a few, then nothing, one day, two, three, four, how many days? Bang! Sanctions! Three days later, Sanctions! Then nothing … In no time you could have the whole of Russia on tenterhooks wondering when the next sanctions bomb will drop and who will be affected. Very destabilizing. Doing so would not be playing nice, but since when has Putin been playing nice? You would have to go back more than six months to find an example. He would squeal and you could throw all his nasty criminal acts right back in his face. Nothing like a bit of straight talking to clear the air.
And applying sanctions, that is only one of many responses open to the West that in the circumstances would be wholly appropriate.