President Barack Obama declared last week that Russia would suffer a “cost” if it tried to exploit the disorder in Ukraine and took unilateral military action against its neighbor. Given what happened next, it's pretty obvious Russian President Vladimir Putin is more than willing to pull out the Soviet Express card left over from his KGB days and settle any bill the U.S. and its NATO allies were prepared to send. In the wake of Russia's military foray onto the Crimean Peninsula, a lot of voices in the national media were declaring that the U.S. had few options to respond. Cynics could be forgiven if they believe these stories were meant to make the lack of any response to Putin's adventurism seem like less of a sign of weakness than it is. It is hard to ignore that the Russians rolled into Ukraine right after U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled his plan to further cut defense spending, including paring the Army to pre-Pearl Harbor personnel levels. This military draw-down is in line with the president's “lead from behind” foreign policy. The Russians have said they moved troops into Crimea to protect the ethnic Russians who live there. In 1938, Adolf Hitler said he had sent the Wehrmacht into the Sudetenland to protect the ethnic Germans in that part of Czechoslovakia, and Britain and France went along.
During a telephone call with Obama, a “really annoyed” German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned whether Putin has lost touch with reality, according to the Berlin-based newspaper Bild. Unfortunately, Putin probably knows exactly what's going on and doesn't mind being annoying now that the Winter Olympics are over.