Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is nearing the end of Act One with this weekend’s trumped-up Crimean referendum for reunification with mother Russia. As we look ahead to Acts Two and Three, what have we learned so far?
Putin’s strategy is crystal clear. He is building a band of buffer states in an orbit around Moscow. That is why he invaded Georgia in 2008 to separate it from its territories Abhazia and South Ossetia, still under Russian control. He is using coercion to keep Armenia, Moldova, and now Ukraine from even thinking about a relationship with the European Union, much less NATO. He will likely annex Crimea and threatens to “protect” ethnic Russians elsewhere in Ukraine if need be.