… by Ian Bremmer:
[…] If a “win” for Putin means expanded influence in Ukraine, then his strategy has backfired royally. Just three months ago, he had the ear of a Russia-leaning Ukrainian government. Today, he has…Crimea. But by annexing Crimea, its 1.5 million pro-Russian voters would no longer be a part of the Ukrainian electorate. The remaining Ukrainian voters will remember images of Russian troops on their soil when they next take to the polls. All of this means that Ukrainian elections are more likely to turn pro-West, leading to the prospects of EU Customs Union integration and eventual European Union membership. That is, if we can get that far.
But this is an enormous if — and it reveals who will likely lose the most.
First of all, if Russia sends its forces into Eastern Ukraine — a distinct possibility — everybody loses. We could see the outbreak of a Ukrainian civil war, crippling market volatility, extreme geopolitical shock, and unforeseeable consequences. Events to date have brought us to a point where this is a frighteningly realistic outcome that cannot be ruled out.
But even if Russia doesn’t push further, there is no good outcome for the Ukrainian people for a long time to come. In the best case, they get cash for debt, but the Russians will no longer subsidize their gas. The economy will remain a wreck, and Ukraine’s new president will see a continued need to tack to Russia for economic reasons — but that strategy will become even more politically untenable. In short, Ukraine ends up back in the same stew — but it boils even hotter.
That scenario assumes ongoing economic and diplomatic support from the West. It wasn’t until the crisis truly erupted that the West began to open its pocketbook. What happens when the next global tension flares and the international media’s attention shifts? Will Western diplomatic efforts shift with it? Are the United States and Europe prepared to backstop a Ukrainian economy in free-fall when they have pressing economic concerns back home?
The Ukrainian people have lost the most, and have the most yet to lose. Discussions of America’s blunders should be framed in this context. Of course, it’s not inevitable: with tremendous, sustained outside support, there is a chance for a Ukrainian win over time. Unfortunately, that chance is far too slim.