Putin is making a huge bet based on the cards he can see. 1) The US is deadlocked with a divided Congress that can't even pass the most basic legislation. 2) Georgia is subdued and would not cause trouble on the flank. Ditto for Muslim Russians (at least in Putin's theorizing.) 3) Turkey is in disorder. 4) Assad is winning hands down in Syria, so the Russian base at Tagus is secure. 5) The Crimea cannot stand alone. All its electricity, water, natural gas and mot of its food comes from the Ukraine. Russia must move everything by air or by ferry. The danger here is that the Crimea will become an economic wasteland dependent on Russia. 6) The Ukraine has long been courting good relations with NATO. This is a serious threat to Putin's Pan-Asian Economic Zone. It is looking more and more like Putin will move on the eastern Ukraine in an attempt to take the eastern industrial cities of Kharkov and Dnepropostrovsk and perhaps even Odessa (which would deny the Ukraine access to the Black Sea.) It is a huge gamble. However, this is a throwback to the very situation that NATO was built and trained for. Sqeezing Russia between the Ukraine and Turkey would be aver desirable position for NATO. Might happen.
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from the article: Lavrov: NATO forces in eastern Europe would violate agreements