The Russian Bear is Awake and Menacing -- Putin Takes off the Mask but is the West in Denial?

Update:  3/18/14:  

Putin says he has no interest in the rest of Ukraine but stays defiant on Crimea
My thought:  Let's hope he's telling the truth.  However, the damage may be done to the world.  Not only is Crimea lost to Russia (the annexation is nearly complete) but China may now be emboldened to go after disputed islands with Taiwan, North Korea with disputed islands with South Korea and on and on. 

"We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran," said Yaalon, who pointed to the Ukraine crisis as an example of Washington "showing weakness".  Yaalon said that although "people know Iran cheats", the United States and other nations chose to negotiate with Tehran on restricting activities they fear are aimed at developing atomic arms.

"Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves," Yaalon said, echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's veiled threats of unilateral military action against Iran if diplomacy fails.

If you have been following Russia's actions and Putin's rhetoric up to now, you have a pretty good sense of what will happen in Ukraine.  If Hitler had been believed, catastrophe probably would have been adverted.  Are we listening to Putin's words and reading his actions?  When the two conflict, do we believe his actions more than his words?

Update 03/17/14: 

Garry Kasparov --  Vladimir Putin and the Lessons of 1938:  He's not Hitler. But we've got to stop him all the same.
My note:  this article is a must read -- I guess I haven't been far off in my assessment of Putin As you know, the vote in Crimea was held and over 90% of the voters chose union with Russia.  You may also know that the minority forty-some percent of non-Russians boycotted the vote, seeing it as a sham.  The West is united in declaring it will not respect the vote while Putin said he would honor the wishes of the Crimean people.  So, I'm willing to predict that we can expect a vote in Russia shortly and a more permanent land grab of Crimea. 

03/17 Update:  According to NPR:  Russia has officially recognized Crimea as a sovereign independent state, after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to that effect late Monday, according to a release from the Kremlin. The decree takes effect immediately, naming "the Republic of Crimea, in which the city of Sevastopol has a special status."

Russian-backed RT News reports that Crimea's parliament on Monday "unanimously voted to integrate the region into Russia."

Putin is slated "to address a joint session of parliament Tuesday where he could announce that Russia is annexing Crimea," NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
President Putin promised to help ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine who asked for it and suffered alleged abuses.  Reports are that Russian agents are fomenting violence and then calls are for Russia's assistance, creating the pretext for Russians to cross the border, don't you think?  Anyone believe that he will not add to Crimea, since he got that so easily and the West folded like a paper tiger?

Some of those 60,000 Russian troops mobilized and drilling are a mere 2-3 hours from the capital.  Do you doubt that Putin would invade, take the capital and re-install the pro-Russian former president?  Putin has stated that he is the legitimate leader of Ukraine.  What has the West done to make him think twice? 

If I am wrong about the above, it is because Putin has restrained himself. It is my conviction that Western actions fall far short of hindering or dissuading him from any further action in Ukraine. Clearly, only Putin would stop Putin.  That is, unless the Russian president decides to do otherwise.  His words and actions on the ground would make that seem unlikely.  

Oh Lord, help me to be wrong.  I pray that Crimea is it and that this is not the end of the story for the people of Crimea who didn't want this.  However, I fear that there is much more violence to come.  May God be with the people of Ukraine.    

Note these excerpts of what appears in 
Crimeans Choose to Join Russia in Vote, Exit Poll Shows

“We’re on the brink of a new cold war where Europe’s view of Russia as a benign nation that could be integrated economically and politically has become history,” Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, said by phone.

Reports of Russia’s increasing military presence follow accusations by Ukraine yesterday that its neighbor’s troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove. In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement today condemning the operation “on the Ukrainian mainland” with “Russian troops.”

While most attention shifted to Crimea today, rallies were held in eastern Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv and Donetsk. Pro-Russian activists stormed the regional prosecutors’ office building in Donetsk and raised the Russian flag, according to a live broadcast.

“The Crimean peninsula is the prelude to wider and much more geo-political tensions over the fate of the Ukrainian mainland,” Spiro said.

The latest reports of Russian military activity beyond Crimea’s borders in eastern Ukraine have heightened concerns that Putin plans to extend his reach in Ukraine.

“We can rule out that Putin will limit himself to Crimea,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview. “There is no prospect of self-restraint on the part of Putin’s Kremlin.”

And from another:  

Crimeans vote in referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine, join Russia

In the eastern city of Donetsk, thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators rallied in support of following Crimea’s lead and holding a referendum on joining Russia. Clusters of protesters stormed two government offices. Pro-Russian activists in Kharkiv, another troubled city in Ukraine’s east, charged into a cultural center and burned Ukrainian-language books while several thousand Moscow sympathizers marched in the southern city of Odessa, according to the Reuters news agency.

About 100 armored vehicles and trucks were seen heading toward a military airport near Dzhankoy in northern Crimea

Acting Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said Sunday that Russia had sharply elevated its troop presence in Crimea in recent days, bringing the total to 22,000. Tenyukh told the Interfax news agency that under basing agreements, Russia is limited to 12,500 troops in Crimea.

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