It’s true that some on the populist right believe Vladimir Putin’s Russia to be an ally of traditional religion and the sovereignty of the nation-state, a counterweight to a global, internationalist order. At best this is a flattering self-image put out by Putin himself. At worst it is a conspiracy theory that is tinged with anti-Semitism. Either way, it’s a fantasy. I don’t even think Putin is particularly great at achieving his own interests.

So, no, I’m not a Putinist. I just think that in the case of Crimea specifically, and Ukraine more generally, Putin has been acting in a way that is consistent with centuries of Russian foreign policy — and that Moscow can credibly outbid the United States in this matter, which Russia sees as essential to its interests. This is especially true when the United States has so little support from its major European allies.

So much of the case for arming Ukraine turns out to be a set of slogans. I’m told that not doing so means “the end of the post-1945 settlement.” How? For most of that settlement Moscow retained control of Crimea and all of Ukraine. In that time Moscow also aggressed against countries far closer to central Europe, such as Hungary, and did far more in the way of destabilizing democracies. And it did so with a much larger body of sympathetic political actors and intellectuals in the West.