I think it goes without saying that the world reacted with shock, surprise and anger when Russia invaded the Crimean region of Ukraine. The events taking place in Ukraine sprung from the populist movement to remove the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych who to all intents and purposes was nothing more than a Russian puppet. The people of Ukraine voted with their feet when Yanukovych refused an EU agreement over closer ties with Russia. This resulted in violent protest springing up all over Kiev which resulted in Yanukovych fleeing the country and being ousted as President. The ousting of the President led Russian President Putin to announce a wide scale invasion of the Crimean region of Ukraine resulting in a referendum widely seen as illegal throughout the world that decided that the Crimea region would become part of the Russian Federation.
The response from the Western Powers has been weak, unorganised and unprepared to tell Russia that such an action is unacceptable. Russia has acted as if we were still living in the 19th Century where countries could annex parts of countries through simple bullying tactics. The illegal invasion of Crimea by over 5000 Russian troops and now over 50,000 amassing on the boarder of Ukraine clearly demonstrates the position of Russia. Unfortunately the Western response has for the most part been laughed off by President Putin. The EU and the United States have reacted by placing travel bans on certain high ranking Russian and Crimean politicians as well as talk of economic sanctions and Russia being suspended from the G8.
These moves have done nothing to deter Russia from its growing military involvement in Ukraine. It is understandable of course why open conflict with Russia is something no country wants. Russia is a huge country with a hefty control over energy supplies running into Europe and a massive military. This however is not an excuse for the West not to take strong action against Russia. The Russian response has been strong, I am not even for a moment suggesting that we take military action but it would seem that the current dialogue has done nothing to show Russia that we are serious. The current action amounts to nothing more than the West wagging its finger at Putin telling him "you've been a naughty boy!"
From another point of view it almost isn't surprising that Putin is confident enough to launch an invasion of Ukraine. The West over the past couple of years has been totally unwilling to stand up to Russia whether it be over the 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russia dictating the terms on how things should play out in Syria, the West allowing Russia to host the Olympics despite widespread corruption and human rights abuses within the country. Putin undoubtedly has a massive ego and is a bully and the problem with bullies is that if you do nothing to stand up against them they will walk all over you.
United States President Barack Obama has repeatedly urged for Russia to take up a diplomatic option and has been urging for Putin to pull troops back from the Eastern Ukraine boarder. In this modern world diplomacy is absolutely the path that needs to be taken. Any sort of conflict between Russia and the West would only result in absolute devastation across Europe and that is something that absolutely cannot so calls for diplomacy are absolutely the right approach. BUT it goes without saying that current Western tactics have no bearing on the route that Putin is taking; the further military build up throughout the region tells us exactly what Putin thinks of our so called sanctions.
To be brutally honest the approach by the Western Powers has been embarrassing, in the United Kingdom it was leaked to the press that the Britain would not put in place heavy sanctions against Russia because it was against our economic interests to do so. When this was leaked the Government suddenly changed its tune and announced it would enact sanctions against Russia. Furthermore the British Government has announced a further slimming down of our military; this is the worst possible time to announce defence cuts. After Iraq and Afghanistan no one has the taste for any sort of further war or conflict but we need a strong response to Russian aggression. If we appear to be pulling back from our International duties it is of course natural that an aggressive state such as Russia shall lash out.
Unfortunately for the Western powers this cannot be simply brushed aside as a regional issue between the Ukraine and Russia. Back in 1994 the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and Ukraine are all signatories to the Budapest Memorandum that promises to protect the territorial rights of Ukraine. Aside from this there must be some stronger reaction to the events taking place in Ukraine. Putin has so far defended his actions by claiming that Russia is protecting ethnic Russians who live in Crimea but the reality is potentially far more sinister. There are many former Soviet countries that have large ethnic Russian populations and if Russia goes unchallenged there is nothing to stop Putin taking action in these places too.
So far Global opinion over this is clear, the actions taking place in Ukraine are wrong, a resolution submitted to the UN General Assembly by Ukraine gained support of over 100 countries with only 11 voting against. Unfortunately these words are not binding in law and of course the timid approach taken so far has not forced Russia's hand. If Russia is to conduct military exercises on the boarder of Ukraine then we must send troops to Ukraine to demonstrate that we shall stand with our allies. The reality is, Russia does not want a military conflict, it can't afford one, and Russia is looking to become an expansionist power without any resistance. The West must stand against this and live up to the democratic principles and International obligations it is bound by.