The Russian Bear is back in business, never went away really, and this time there is literally nothing that can really be done to stop her latest adventure outside the gate.. Oh there is some talk of economic sanctions or some such but that likely is not going to disturb the Bear just a whole bit. Won't pay much attention probably......and trust that the Bear is smart enough to not go too far.
What can a consortium of free nations do to give the Bear pause? If the Bear is roaming in her own backyard there will be some whining and maybe even some sort of "line in the sand" talk, but the reality of the situation is that the Bear is going to do what the Bear is going to do and if that means straying just a tad beyond the fence, well, the Bear is not much afraid. Especially now with a community organizer being the titular leader of the free world. The Bear is guided by one who is beyond, far beyond, a mere organizer of communities in all aspects of geopolitics. He is smarter, bolder, and more ruthless than any fellow whose claim to fame is that he won the Nobel prize before he really even started work. The Bear growls, laughs, and spits in the face of such. The Bear knows pusillanimity when the Bear sees it and will act on it in a way that may not be advantageous to the pusillanimous. Geopolitics 101.
What can be done oh what can be done before this little problem the Bear has created gets out of hand, totally out of hand, and she strays not just a bit beyond the fence but into the wood next door? There are, in actuality, quite a number of things that can be done to keep the Bear just out of reach of her former dominions.
Number one it is important to recognize that the Bear misses her old stomping grounds and may believe herself to be entitled to roam further and again taste forbidden fruit. She likely won't be quite stupid enough to attempt such but the desire is there. This is obvious. It will, unfortunately, become a matter of realpolitik that the Bear be allowed, without too much interference to have a bit of space. The Crimean peninsula serves that purpose. The Bear will never relinquish her access to warm water and Crimean naval facilities are not something that she will give up. Ever! The security of Black Sea Fleet will be safeguarded and if the Bear trumps up some sort of national security threat issue in order to gain complete control of the peninsula, then the West will have to live with it. A small price to pay frankly....Let her have some cake but don't allow her to eat too much of it.
Another issue that will have to be understood is that the Bear has an inferiority complex. The Bear is, in reality, a weakling and the Bear knows it. Her leadership is certainly stronger than the weakness we see in the land of the brave right now but that does not readily translate into real geopolitical power.
The Bear's naval forces would, in an all out conflict, be swept from the seas in a matter of days. Her Black Sea Fleet that may (or may not) be the real reason for her Crimean adventure might not even have opportunity to reach the Mediterranean. Her ground forces would never be able to run roughshod over the forces of the West. You've seen them. Her forces have historically been easy prey in the past and only her vastness and the foolishness of her adversaries has prevented the Bear from being over run. The Wehrmacht would have eventually met up with Japanese forces (If Imperial Nippon had had the stones to go for round two with the Eastern Soviet Army) and traded good beer for rice wine had they not been overextended and led by an amateur. Her air, while quite good, would be no match for those of the NATO alliance. Her special operations forces? Among the best in the world - however in an all out conflict with a powerful nation state the special forces are rather insignificant. To put it bluntly, special ops types don't win wars with a competent enemy. Brute force is required for that particular task. Lastly, her strategic rocket forces, if unleashed, could certainly destroy much of the Western world, but turn about would be fair play and it is unlikely that they will be used preemptively. The Bear, while historically vicious and weak is, again, not stupid. A negotiated settlement would be undertaken rather quickly should the Bear lose control and decide to dash for the Western wood.
Of all the Bear's disadvantages one of the most glaring is that her immediate neighbors hate and fear her. For good reason. The danger to the West here is the temptation to take complete advantage of that fact and foolishly include some in her immediate vicinity in any sort of entangling military alliance. Was it really necessary to include the small Baltic states in the NATO alliance? Probably not and perhaps a dangerous blunder. The Bear should be contained certainly but it is smart money to leave her just a bit of room to maneuver. Real containment of the Russian Bear should not be that difficult a task and should be a matter of policy. Let the Bear have the illusion of real power but keep her in a cage. A large cage to be sure, with a bit of roaming room, but a cage none the less for a really powerful Bear with free reign would be a real danger.
The Bear must be made to understand that she has nothing to fear from the West as long as she makes mischief only in areas that are not of immediate strategic importance. The impotence of the West to make much hay over the Crimean (or Georgian) affair must not be misconstrued as a license to really make a play westward.
The Russian Bear will keep the Crimea and safeguard her naval facilities. She may even secure some areas of Ukraine proper as an object lesson of sorts but she will not make a play for those that were not former "republics" in the Soviet Union. Her former Warsaw Pact neighbors are not in any real danger at this time and likely won't be in the immediate future.
Watch and see.