Kinsman: What role will sanctions by Canada, the United States, and the European Union play in the development of the political crisis in Ukraine?

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March 19, 2014

The Ukraine protests were not primarily about geopolitics, the EU vs Russia, or the ethnic divide, which apart from in Crimea is overstated. They have been about Ukrainian self-governance, cronyism, and corruption.

Putin is the last person to understand the point of it all. He sees hostility everywhere. The alleged threat from "the West" was negligible. The real threat to him is contagion to already restive Russians in the big cities exhibiting popular disgust with shoddy governance structures. In spite of his intervention, it's coming back again soon to a neighbourhood near him.

True, the snapshot today shows Putin riding a wave of popular Russian approval for inflicting a unilateral correction to an awkward loose end of the USSR's mostly peaceful break-up--the loss of emphatically Russian Crimea.

But sanctions will bite the already wobbly Russian economy, the oligarchs, and all those who benefit from Russia's now-threatened integration into the global economy. Putin says sanctions will hurt the EU more than Russia. But activity with Russia accounts for only 1 percent of the EU's GDP. Activity with the EU accounts for 15 percent of Russia's GDP. Putin will ring all the patriotic and anti-American bells to try to obscure these basic facts but new Russians don't want to live in a rogue and isolated state where economic opportunity has been degraded.

It's a pity that President Obama's sincere re-set with Russia has been trashed by a paranoid demagogue. Someone else will have to do a re-set again with a more democratic Russia in several years' time. In the meantime, it's up to Ukraine to at last get its own act (without Crimea) together.