It seems that traders in world markets have little concern that Russia’s annexation of Crimea will be much of an impediment to anyone’s profitability, given that Ukraine is a “far-off country of which they know little,” to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain’s reaction to the German annexation of Czechoslovakia. The bankers and hedge funds and bond traders do not see Putin coming for them. Right they may be, at least in the short and medium term, after which it will be somebody else’s problem, like global warming. The EU governance rules require unanimity, and sanctions are only as strong as whatever Cyprus and Bulgaria, let alone loyal-servant-of-the-City-of-London David Cameron, will approve.
President Obama and NATO can certainly protect their own sovereign space, but do they simply watch while Putin destabilizes and propagandizes Ukraine? The amoral logic of capitalism that makes sanctions hard to enact or enforce seems to be in Putin’s favor, but it could cut more than one way. How about dropping all sanctions that keep Iran from freely selling its natural gas? If western Europe and the U.S. are going to continue doing business with a guy like Vladimir Vladimirovich, why not do business with Rouhani? Let Iran and Russia knock themselves out competing and cutting energy prices. I may not have thought through all the possible consequences, I admit, but it seems worth considering, if only to get out of the mindset that the West is simply reacting rather than initiating.