What comes next in Ukraine?

The situation in the Ukraine — and the rest of the world's reaction to the rapidly unfolding events — are going to dominate the news and political happenings this week. Here's what people have been saying about the context of the conflict, and what might happen next.


Russian naval infantry soldiers (marines) guard the Orsk Russian landing ship anchored in the Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol on March 2.(VIKTOR DRACHEVVIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The view from Russia

David Remnick, The New Yorker: "Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show — a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly."

Marc Champion, Bloomberg View: "Nobody but Russian President Vladimir Putin knows exactly what will happen next, and perhaps not even him. My guess, however, is that the prewar Georgian scenario is being replayed. Russia has not yet invaded, although its parliament has given Putin permission to do so. It is adding troops to the already substantial presence it has in Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based. It clearly intends to assert full control over Crimea in order to undermine, punish and destabilize a new government that Putin believes to be illegitimate and a threat to Russia’s sphere of influence. It is possible that the lesson Putin took away from the Georgian conflict was that the cost of intervention is minimal: Despite threats from the U.S. and Europe, no price was inflicted on Russia."

Julie Ioffe, The New Republic: "Putin sees the world according to his own logic, and the logic goes like this: it is better to be feared than loved, it is better to be overly strong than to risk appearing weak, and Russia was, is, and will be an empire with an eternal appetite for expansion. And it will gather whatever spurious reasons it needs to insulate itself territorially from what it still perceives to be a large and growing NATO threat. Trying to harness Russia with our own logic just makes us miss Putin's next steps."

David Remnick, The New Yorker: "Such distractions were peripheral to Putin's grand vision. 'Russia is back,' officials kept insisting. Amid all the brutality and corruption of his regime, his historical mission has been to assert himself as the country's singular, irreplaceable leader and to reclaim Russia's globe-bestriding status. In Putin's eyes, Russia had allowed the West to humiliate it, by expanding NATO to its frontiers, by luring former Soviet republics — especially Ukraine — westward, by bombing Serbia and Kosovo, and, as the self-proclaimed power in a unipolar world, by dancing in the end zone at every opportunity. Sochi was meant to put a stop to all that. It wasn't about 'slope style' snowboarding; it was about the televised revival of a demoralized country. Putin presided with all his accustomed bravado. He is an autocrat who does not defy his cartoon; he draws it, stroke by broad stroke. He is the frenetic macho, who flies a fighter jet into Chechnya, rides a horse bare-chested, tranquilizes a Siberian tiger, hang-glides with cranes, drives a Formula One car, rides with a motorcycle gang, skates with the Russian hockey team, skis the Caucasus, shoots a whale with a cross bow, and dives into the sea in search of archaeological treasures."

Ben Judah, Politico Magazine: "Vladimir Putin knows this. He knows that millions of Russians will cheer him as a hero if he returns them Crimea. He knows that European bureaucrats will issue shrill statements and then get back to business helping Russian elites buy London town houses and French chateaux. He knows full well that the United States can no longer force Europe to trade in a different way. He knows full well that the United States can do nothing beyond theatrical military maneuvers at most. This is why Vladimir Putin just invaded Crimea. He thinks he has nothing to lose."

Advising Obama


President Barack Obama speaks about the Ukraine at the White House on Friday.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Washington Post editorial board: "The United States now faces a naked act of armed aggression in the center of Europe by a Russian regime that is signaling its intent to steamroller this U.S. president and his allies. Mr. Obama must demonstrate that can’t be done."

Edward Luce, Financial Times: "It will require a very different Mr. Obama from the semi-detached one the world has grown used to. Even before Mr. Obama became president, critics accused him of appeasing a revanchist Russia. John McCain, his Republican opponent, seized on Russia’s semi-invasion of Georgia in 2008 as an example of where he would draw the line against Moscow’s expansionist creep. Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to match his opponent’s hawkishness chimed far better with the U.S. public mood. Americans were tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mr. Obama promised to end them. He has done so. If anything, Americans are even warier of entanglements today. Yet Russia’s occupation of the Crimea dramatically changes the landscape. Everything that Mr. Obama wants – nation building at home, a nuclear deal with Iran, a quiescent Middle East and the pivot to Asia – hinges on how he responds to Mr. Putin."

Fred Kaplan, Slate: "Why did Obama publicly state that aggression in Ukraine would trigger “consequences”? Clearly he was telling Putin to recalculate the potential costs and benefits of an invasion. But Obama was ignoring a simple fact: Putin would incur almost any risk to avoid losing Ukraine. To put it another way: There are no consequences—none that the United States could credibly threaten—that would keep Putin from doing whatever it takes to hang on to Ukraine. More often than not, Obama has acted like a foreign-policy realist in the five years of his presidency. In his public statements on Ukraine these past 24 hours, he has not. Rather, he has drawn another 'red line' that the threatened party feels it’s worth the risk to ignore."

Scott Wilson, The Washington Post: "Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor. It will be a hard argument for him to make, analysts say."

On the ground in Ukraine


Members of the Crimean self-defense unit stand guard at the local government headquarters in Simferopol, Crimea, on Sunday. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Elizabeth Piper, Reuters: "Crimea was given to Ukraine by Russia in 1954 by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. People who identified themselves as ethnic Russian comprise 59 percent of Crimea’s population of about 2 million, with 24 percent Ukrainian and 12 percent Tatar, according to 2001 census data. Russians make up 17 percent of Ukraine’s entire population of 45 million."

Matt Ford, The Atlantic: "Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite also openly expressed fears that Russia's actions could ultimately lead to Crimea's annexation. 'These signs are extremely worrying. They show a certain preparation and assumptions related to the occupation of [Ukrainian territory],' Grybauskaite told Lithuanian media outlets, calling the Russian deployment of troops in Ukraine "damnable." But not all of Eastern Europe's diplomatic barbs are aimed at Moscow. Marko Mihkelson, who chairs the Estonian parliament's foreign policy committee, tweeted on Saturday, 'If West does not wake up to Russian aggressive foreign policy, tomorrow will be too late.'"

Charles King, The New York Times: "Crimea is routinely described as 'pro-Russian,' given that an estimated 58 percent of the population of two million is ethnic Russian, with another 24 percent Ukrainian and 12 percent Crimean Tatar. Many of its inhabitants, regardless of ethnicity, are actually Russian citizens or dual-passport holders. But the picture is even more complicated. A vital naval base run by another country, a community of patriotic military retirees, a multiethnic patchwork, a weak state and competing national mythologies — that mixture is why a Crimean conflict has long been the nightmare scenario in the former Soviet Union and now represents the gravest crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold War."

Sarah A. Topol, Bloomberg Businessweek: "Some stopped to listen to the small pro-Russia protests in front of the Crimean parliament. 'We love Russia, we love Putin, we love Soviet history!' Anna Kaftanova shouted into the microphone to applause from the few dozen who had assembled at the rally. 'No western leaders have come here to hear our side,' she continued, echoing complaints of ethnic Russians here who have been watching the international community’s response to the requests of the leadership in Kiev for support against president Vladimir Putin’s show of strength in the peninsula."

Anne Applebaum, Slate: "Russia might also simply decide to wait it out. Ukraine is careening rapidly toward a default: After years of mismanagement, the country’s finances are unsustainable. If Russia simply waits, Ukraine could well go bankrupt and plunge into real economic chaos. The West could lose patience. The Ukrainians who so bravely stood up for independence in the past few months could grow disillusioned with leaders who will be unable to deliver rapid change. That’s what happened after the Orange Revolution in 2005—and in this part of the world, history does repeat itself."

The international community

Dayna Evans, Gawker: "British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed concern over the quickly escalating crisis, stating that 'the world is watching.' The U.K., the U.S., France, and Canada have all suspended preparations for the G8 summit, which was scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia, this June."

Admiral James Stavridis, Foreign Policy: "Many will consider any level of NATO involvement provocative and potentially inflammatory. Unfortunately, the stakes are high and the Russians are moving. Sitting idle, without at least looking at options, is a mistake for NATO and would itself constitute a signal to Putin -- one that he would welcome."

Must-reads:

"House GOP budget will focus on reforming welfare, overhauling social programs" — Robert Costa, The Washington Post

"Action by Russia Divides Immigrants in New York" — J. David Goodman, The New York Times

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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Jaime Fuller | March 2