Putin may win permanent control over the Crimea, but at the cost of abandoning his hard-earned cover of non-interventionism that has coloured Russia's image in the international community, revealing an attitude of pure self-interest that cannot be reconciled with UN values of international peace and cooperation.
Given the precarious legal and constitutional framework on which the current status of Crimea has been built since the Soviet period, a purely legal "solution" taking recourse to past institutional arrangements is unlikely to be possible or even desirable. What is required is first and foremost a political decision and a commitment to put it on a sound legal and constitutionally as well as internationally agreed basis.
It's a case of making your bed and sleeping in it. Why is anyone really surprised that Russia is intervening in Ukraine? The dully predictable outburst of anti-Russian sentiment in the media would suggest plenty of people are. Yet it would take only ten minutes on Wikipedia to be aware of the historical complexity of this region.
Forget about Putin. His personality is way too fascinating - in a sinister kind of way - to discuss issues as they are, without letting emotions come into play. In fact, forget about Russia at all. Let's think Ukraine and let's think democracy, as that is the major value the EU is meant to be bringing to this born-again country.
It's a lazy comparison to make, but the parallels between Putin's moves in the Crimea and Hitler's invasion of the Sudetenland in 1938 are far too tempting for those of us with a little knowledge of modern history to ignore. Even more so now that Putin himself is making frequent mentions of neo-Nazism as being one of his primary concerns in Ukraine.