But the fast-moving developments in Crimea may mean that the ultimate question facing Obama is not what the U.S. can do to stop Russia from taking control of Crimea, but what kind of relationship Washington can have with Moscow should that occur.
White House advisers insist the U.S. could not go back to a business as usual approach with Russia if Moscow were to annex Crimea or recognize its independence. But that may be seen as an empty threat to the Kremlin after the U.S., as well as Europe, did just that in 2008 after Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway territories of Georgia. Russia also continues to keep military forces in both territories.
Come on. The only threats Obama knows how to make are empty ones. And everybody knows it.
These things are usually formulated as being a choice between being liked or being feared. But in Obama’s case, neither apply.