Russia blows past Obama's "off-ramp"

Plan C, which Putin shot down in the last 24 hours, was apparently based on the hope among some policy makers that a confused and misguided President Putin had made a dreadful blunder in Crimea. The plan was to offer the poor, trapped Russians a graceful way out of their predicament that would ultimately restore Ukrainian unity as the country moved West. The plan collapsed when Lavrov blew off the West and refused to even meet with Ukraine’s foreign minister and now the Russians are kicking the fragments to bits as the Crimean regional authorities announce plans for a referendum on annexation by Russia.

Far from thinking that its incursion was a foolish blunder, Russia appears to be acting in the belief that it has inflicted a humiliation on the West and made solid gains on the ground in Ukraine. It is doubling down on the policy, and as far as one can read the mixed signals from the Kremlin, appears to be saying that the West must swallow the annexation of Crimea or watch as Russia further destabilizes eastern Ukraine.

Putin cares much less than many westerners seem to think about any sanctions that the West is likely to impose. Russia isn’t part of the West and things work differently there. Western commentators pointed breathlessly to large declines in Russian stock markets after the invasion, for example, to show how Putin must be feeling the errors of his ways.