In the first case, whatever passes as de-escalation in Crimea is a satisfactory outcome. In the other, any notion of a return to a treacherous status quo ante must be rejected and replaced by a Russia-containment strategy for the West.

Poland has signaled that the right place for a new start is energy security—the strategic area where the West has been blatantly negligent, but where it can make decisions that would meaningfully shorten Russia’s levers. Prime Minister Donald Tusk, singling out Germany as a problem, said last week that “we will not be able to efficiently fend off potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future, if so many European countries are dependent on Russian gas deliveries or wade into such dependence.”

By way of nonresponse, Mrs. Merkel, in a speech on Russian lawlessness last week, made no suggestion of German willingness to reduce its dependency on Russian gas, the revenue from which is the central prop of Mr. Putin’s economy.

That leaves the Americans to lead from the front. If they choose to do so, they could find a measure of wide European support. European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, for instance, has called Russia’s energy reserves “Putin’s new Red Army,” and criticized Mrs. Merkel’s retreat from nuclear energy as increasing Europe’s energy dependence on the Russians. Most recently, Mr. Oettinger spoke positively about America, with its new shale-gas resources, becoming a significant supplier to Europe.