Maxim Trudolyubov writes: President Vladimir Putin’s decision to slip soldiers in unmarked uniforms into Crimea this month and escalate the race for control over other Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine shows that former assumptions about Moscow’s political behavior no longer apply. The United States and the European Union may still consider sanctions as a tool to check Moscow’s foreign policy, but to Mr. Putin, the threat of such sanctions means little: He has already factored them into his plans.
The chain of events the Kremlin has set in motion contains a message not only for Western policy makers, but also for the Russian plutocrats and corrupt officials who keep much of their wealth in the West. Mr. Putin is letting his Western adversaries know that he is telling his Russian enemies and financially corrupt friends: “If you won’t straighten up and behave as patriots, I am ready to throw you under the bus. If the laws prohibiting you to feather your nests abroad or to serve as ‘foreign agents’ do not persuade you, Western sanctions will do the job.”
After the Russia-supported president of Ukraine, Viktor F. Yanukovych, fled his country on Feb. 22, the Kremlin went into emergency mode. Since then, key decisions have been made by a group of Russia’s top security officials. The diplomatic, military and business establishments have been pushed to the side. [Continue reading…]