We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Ukraine east of the Dniepr was incorporated (by conquest, like the establishment of all countries) into Russia a little after 1667. That's 40 years before the unification of Scotland and England (by conquest), 100 years before the American Revolution (a kind of conquest), and more than 200 years before the unifications of Germany and Italy (both by conquest). Russia might think it has an interest in what happens in the Ukraine at least equal to the interests of the US in Ohio. In any adult world, it does.
A country positioned between major powers, like Ukraine, has no legitimate expectation of or right to full independence. It will always have to kowtow to one or both of its neighbors. Assuming one of them doesn't annex it.
A reasonable expectation for Ukraine is some sort of neutrality: no membership in or relationship with NATO; some sort of economic relationship to the EU without full membership; an economic relationship with Russia (unavoidable); and limitations on its military.
Apparently, before the shoot-down, Merkel and Putin had agreed to those principles plus recognition of the Crimean annexation by Russia and cessation of Russia support for the separatists. Now this is either on hold or no longer possible.
Considering the animosities caused by any civil war, Ukraine should also become a federal state in which many powers devolve to the oblasts. Actually, partition might be needed for peace.
Supposedly, a close advisor to Putin has been quoted as saying that the recent Yukos ruling by the Hague is irrelevant because war is coming to Europe. Muy fun. And we thought the Euros of 1914 were stupid. At least they didn't have TWO bad examples of what not to do.
Maybe the Europeans aren't ready for Big Boy pants. The peace in Europe was imposed on the Europeans by the US and Soviet militaries. Maybe we need to revisit the 1950's. The US puts 500,000 to 600,000 troops with several thousand tanks and nukes in the West, and Russia does likewise in Mittle Europa. The Europeans have their toys taken away, and they content themselves with making cheese and kielbasa.
AND, then there are the FINNS! Great courageous people who fought and fought the Russian Communists. BUT, they fought alone except when the Germans also wanted to fight the Russians! In the end Finland lost, was occupied by the Russians and remains to this day THE ONLY COUNTRY TO HAVE REPAID ALL WAR DEBT. Might take a look at the map for that part of the world and tell me what you see in terms of land bridges, sea lanes, etc.,etc.,
But then again I pity the poor fool whoever trusts the Swedes to do anything that requires personal courage--it's just been beaten out of them by so many years as Socialists! They won't be coming to the party--but, they will enjoy the treats.
And the brits, how many whites are going to do battle for a country they now believe has been occupied by the Muslim world? Nope--they are not gonna sign up either. THEREFORE, PUTIN wins. Unless, of course you think Germany should try to rely on the Spanish,Czechs, etc.?
Putin has no legitimate interest in the conquest of any portion of the Ukraine. Or anything else. I don't care what they did five hundred years ago or before or after WW2. They lost the cold war, they lost their empire and they need to get over it. Ukraine is a sovereign nation, fair and square. Russia faced no threats from the west and nobody was bothering the ethnic Russians. Ukraine even gave the Russians the nukes they had leftover. The buffer zone excuse has zero credibility. Putin is just being a major douch bag.
On the topic of growing big boy pants, the Polish military is almost a match for the Russians in tanks and planes all by themselves. And the Poles won't just sit back and let them run over Ukraine. Neither will the Hungarians. They remember the cold war and they remember the long bitter occupation and oppression of communism. Now, all those countries are rearming faster than they wanted to. And they are not pleased about it. That money was going to be used for better things. If the stuff hits the fan, Putin will quickly find himself in very deep trouble. The Turks are very displeased with Putin and he has troubles in the south and to his east. If the Germans get involved, Putin is Kaput.
Nope, the big boy pants are not the trouble. The trouble is Putin. Other than lunatics like McCain and Bolton, nobody embraces the idea of a broader conflict. But, if it happens, Russia may wind up permanently MIA.
I think the expansion of NATO needs (and needed) to be thought about carefully. I think people forget it's a mutual defense pact, with an attack on one member taken as an attack against all. Are we all prepared to go to war for Albania (if anyone decided to to invade them)?
Conversely, are we sleeping better at night knowing the Romanian Army is on duty?
Have we seriously thought about the strategic value of committing to some of these countries' defence? And of what strategic contribution they can make?
By both those criteria we should bring Israel into NATO. If I were in Europe I would sleep better knowing the IDF was on duty!