The Ukrainian revolution has redrawn the geopolitical map of Eurasia. In the process it has set back two key objectives of the "Putin doctrine" that shapes Russia’s foreign policy: Russia as a great power defined in opposition to the West and Russia as an unchallengeable hegemon in the post-Soviet space. Putin will do whatever it takes to prevent the spread of the "Ukrainian contagion" inside Russia. This is the imperative that will dominate the Kremlin’s foreign and domestic policy for weeks, perhaps months to come. Will Vladimir Putin escalate his aggressive stance toward Ukraine beyond the point where violence and even armed confrontation between Ukraine and Russia become inevitable? What will the US and Europe do to deter the bear as Ukraine seeks to move to the West?
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The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has finally spurred the United States and Europe to agree on imposing additional sanctions on Russia. But Vladimir Putin's tactics in Ukraine are likely to be far more influenced by his domestic political calculus than by international pressure.
From the moment the corrupt pro-Russian authoritarian regime of Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown in Kiev at the end of February, Vladimir Putin's most important objective has been to continue to solidify his domestic political base by means of the rally around the flag effect.
A hundred years ago, Austria started shelling Serbia to begin WWI. Today, Russia is shelling Ukraine. The West today is under siege, even if the battlefields seem far away. Those who seek destruction never cease until they win or are stopped, but the West wants to avoid conflict by hoping that it can talk away problems and threats.
Ignoring Russia’s in-your-face actions has become all too common a response by the current administration. One dangerous example is Russia’s flaunting of the treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF), which ended the last battle of the Cold War.
The tragic shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine proved that the world cannot take freedom of the skies for granted. This new face of war will require an American military transformed to meet new threats. Much of that burden will fall on the Air Force.
President Obama's response to the July 17 attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has followed a well-established pattern. Viewing international affairs through the confining prism of legal procedures and restraints, Mr. Obama is treating this terrorist act as something akin to a police homicide investigation.