Last night the people of Quebec voted overwhelmingly to denounce, perhaps even renounce, separatism. So on one side of the world, the minority has chosen to remain within the Canadian federation, and the imminent threat of a referendum on sovereignty has abated.
However, in Ukraine, there are reports, from both the U.S. and Russia that each side is deploying paid mercenaries to foment/counter a movement toward increased Russian control of the three eastern cities where there are significant pockets of Russian and pro-Russian people. Yesterday we learned that the Obama administration had evidence that Putin was paying those "forces" who occupied regional government buildings in three eastern cities. Today, we read counter charges from Moscow that "Greystone" mercenaries under contract to the U.S. are aiding the Ukrainian government in their goal of taking back these government facilities.
We already are witnessing what has become known as a proxy war in Syria, where Iran and Russia are both providing significant support to the Assad regime, with the U.S. and others providing some support and medical aid to the rebels.
Obama's recently commented in Brussels, "that we are not entering a new cold war" because rather than having considerable influence and exerting control over several states, Russia is comparatively weak and seeks to re-establish some lost honour, as part of Putin's legacy-building project. And to be sure, the American people are not receptive to another hot or cold war; neither, really is the European Union. And there is some evidence that Russia (Putin) is determined to make stormy seas for countries and people once part of the Soviet Union, and have moved out of that orbit and closer to Europe and the west generally, as well as politically and economically.
Putin's reading of the resistance to any form of military action by the west, however, could be his opportunity to drive a wedge into his reclaiming of the eastern part of Ukraine and perhaps even threatening other neighbouring states. NATO's call for increased military presence in neighbouring and member countries, as a sign of solidarity against these latest moves by Putin has, so far, yielded minimal if any positive results.
Effectively, in many developed countries, while there are still defence budgets and military components to their security apparatus, the world has grown weary of war, and, it is in many quarters non-state actors who are taking advantage of the opening they see to advance their causes. Nevertheless, states, especially burgeoning states like Ukraine struggling to get out from under the oppressive regime, including the heavy debt load they inherited under Yanukovich, need substantial support if they are to gain the strength and the effective determination to resist threats such as those Putin imposes, under the guise of "protecting those people who are favourably disposed to Russia, and less committed to the new Ukraine.
It is also very clear, even to the uninitiated, that the threats and sanctions coming from Washington and Brussels and Bonn and London and Paris are mere mosquitoes, an annoyance to Putin, but hardly anything to worry about in his potential march into and through the eastern cities of Ukraine, and perhaps beyond. And unless and until Putin begins to take the "west" seriously, and the west for its part takes this threat more seriously than it has so far, the Ukrainian experiment in democracy and a closer alliance to the west could falter by default of those, including the EU and the U.S. who either consider their interests to be only marginally impacted by Putin's incursion (invasion) or his motives less worrisome than they may actually be.
Perhaps it is time for a collective reality check among the western nations, some serious push-back, just short of military confrontation and a demonstration of both unity and strength from NATO that these Russian moves will not be tolerated. Missing a proposed G-8 meeting in Sochi, to have been hosted by Putin, and putting a few oligarchs' accounts under a freeze and restricting their movements into the U.S. and other western countries, individually and collectively, are clearly not enough to stop this new push by Putin, and, there are not merely border issues and autonomy issues and economic issues at stake, the people of Ukraine could find themselves under the Russian control and dominance, given the state's weakened position after Yanukovich, and they will, naturally and inevitably, hold the "west" responsible for their fate, as they should.