Russia has taught the United States a stern and embarrassing lesson in Ukraine as a riposte to Washington-backed regime change in Kiev, the capital. “So far,” Moscow in effect warned a thoroughly shocked Washington, “but no further.” President Vladimir Putin then annexed Crimea.
Nothing quite like this move on the geopolitical chessboard has happened since the U.S. became the world’s single superpower over two decades ago.
The objective of the Obama Administration’s support for a coup to remove an essentially neutral Ukrainian government (though neighborly toward Russia) was to install a regime leaning toward — and economically dependent upon — the United States and the European Union. The purpose is to compromise Russia’s revival as a regional power critical of U.S. policies.
The neutrality of the Kiev government, if not close ties, is exceptionally important to Moscow for its own long-term regional goals, and it will work toward repairing relations in time. Considerable support for Russia remains in the country.
Washington was obviously disoriented by Russia’s unexpected move in Ukraine, and perhaps even more so when Putin shrugged off President Obama’s subsequent threats. But for all the anti-Russia rhetoric, sanctions and other punishments emanating from the U.S. and EU, the danger of an armed clash or greatly heightened East-West tensions is relatively remote at the moment, but if the confrontations continue there may be more serious problems ahead.