Obama bets on Putin's unlikely reversal on Ukraine

First, the administration seeks to impose “costs” for the Russian intervention; this was essential after Putin’s humiliating rebuff of Obama’s warning last Friday against such action. The harshest sanctions have been levied by the financial markets, but Thursday’s announcement of Treasury and State Department measures adds some teeth. Just 24 hours earlier, the White House wasn’t sure if such additional measures would backfire.

The strategy assumes that for Putin’s Russia, which was so obviously hungry for validation at the Sochi Olympics, the prospect of international diplomatic and financial ostracism is a real penalty.

Second, the United States mobilized its NATO allies to prevent further Russian expansion in the region. I’m told by some at the Pentagon that several dozen measures have already been adopted, including new NATO exercises and U.S. visits. The message is that Putin’s actions are bringing precisely the outcome he least wanted, in which Russia’s neighbors are moving closer to the United States and NATO.

Finally, Obama has kept the exit door open, even as he tries to push Putin through. This combination of sanctions and diplomacy helped yield the breakthrough interim nuclear agreement with Iran, and Obama is attempting a similar maneuver.