Here's President Obama on Friday: "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."Characteristically, Obama establishes a few degrees of separation between himself and actually acting. He doesn't say, straightforwardly, that the United States will lead the international community in imposing costs for any military intervention in Ukraine. No. The United States will "stand with" others in "affirming" that "there will be costs."
One suspects that President Putin isn't very worried about affirmations of future costs by the international community. He's seen Bashar al-Assad survive similar affirmations. Putin, like Assad, understands actions, not affirmations.
So will Obama now move beyond affirmations to actions? Will Obama get Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and London to begin to isolate the Putin regime diplomatically, politically, and economically? Will Obama lead our allies to move the G-8 meeting from Russia, disinvite Putin, refuse visas to Putin's cronies to travel abroad, and expose and tie up bank accounts he and his buddies have in the West? Will Obama expedite the admission of Georgia to NATO, and begin to move toward a security relationship with Ukraine? Will Obama canvass his administration to discover the many other things that could be done to begin to undermine Putin at home and abroad? Will Obama act so that the Russian people and Russian elites see that Putin's actions have costs—real costs, not the affirmation of the possibility of costs?
Or will we be all talk, no action?