But the reality is that Obama’s approach of applying carefully-calibrated sanctions that ramp up the economic pressure on Moscow in stages is exactly what is needed to sow doubt in the Kremlin about whether it can afford the costs associated with of a violent military takeover of Ukraine.
Obama is following the correct strategy of holding the more serious “Stage 3” sector-wide sanctions in reserve as a deterrent against a Russian attack (either special “black” operations or overt military) on additional cities in Eastern/Central Ukraine or even Kyiv itself; although most of the media coverage has focused on the situation in Eastern Ukraine, no one should forget that Russia also has its forces poised on Ukraine’s northern border near the capital.
Putin’s current behavior toward Ukraine is based primarily on emotion, and only secondarily on consideration of Russian strategic interests. And the emotional endgame of Russia’s neo-imperialists has little to do with recapturing Donetsk, Crimea, or other parts of southeastern Ukraine. The real goal of emotional Russian imperialism is the subjugation and re-Russification of Kyiv and central Ukraine.