Putin’s aims remain the same: to dismember Ukraine and reclaim as much of it as he can. He’s willing to be patient. His Crimean adventure allows him to claim a greater area of the Black Sea as Russia’s – and steal potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and natural gas deposits from Ukraine. The free world must continue to isolate with economic and political sanctions until he surrenders Crimea. The two-million Crimeans should resist the occupiers, assisted by mainland Ukrainians.
Ukrainians have shown that, despite institutions hobbled by corruption for 23 years, they will rally when the nation’s survival is at stake. Aside from Crimea, Putin’s attempts to divide and conquer have failed except in Donetsk and Luhansk. There are signs he is failing there and now trying to distance himself from the rag-tag band of separatists he incited and, probably, financed through intermediaries.
The Western pressure, light as it has been, has helped. But the real credit goes to Ukrainians and even to oligarchs like billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who seems to have finally realized he could lose his fortune if more of Ukraine becomes part of Russia or breakaway republics.