The seizure of Crimea from Ukraine has shocked the world with its blinding speed and brusqueness. Months of steadily escalating riots in Ukraine culminated in the overthrow of the Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.
Shortly after his overthrow, the Crimea region of Russia was occupied by “unmarked troops.” The international community was stunned by such decisive and secretive action. Most modern interventions are precipitated by massive tension culminating in a massive invasion.
The most shocking part about this takeover, however, has been that it occurred without firing a single shot. Many recent American interventions in areas like Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in widespread bombings and bloodshed.
In contrast, Russian troops walked into Crimea and essentially took over the territory. This is largely due to the large Russian majority in Crimea. These ethnic similarities between the Russian and Crimean populations have facilitated the takeover.
The small incursions of unmarked troops were like testing the temperature of a pool. Instead of diving into the situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to take a less direct and graduate route.
Unsurprisingly, these troops turned out to be agents of the Russian state, a status disclosed by their raising of Russian flags over conquered buildings. As time passed, more troops flowed into the Crimea region and eventually took over multiple Ukrainian structures.
These efforts culminated in a referendum in Crimea to rejoin the Russian state. Despite doubts about the fairness of this referendum, it passed regardless and Crimea became a part of Russia. Russia then engaged in geopolitical housekeeping and effectively nationalized Crimea as a part of its territory.
This bloodless takeover has essentially neutered the international community in its capacity to act. The members of the G8 have suspended Russia, and the UN General Assembly has declared the annexation illegal, but in real terms, it is unlikely that these efforts will bear any fruit.
Trying to reign in Russia with legal means will have no effect on Russian behavior. Sending troops across the border of another country with intentions of occupying its territory and military bases shows a blatant disregard for any and all international norms. The West has been forced to stand on the sidelines as these countries watch Putin act as he pleases.
Sanctions are usually seen as a one-size-fits-all solution to international disagreements; however, they are unlikely to be effective against Russia. The Russian economy is large enough to bite back against the nations that impose sanctions on it. Any trade barriers would hurt both Russia and whatever nation decided to impose these barriers.
In light of this, it looks like the world map will have to be redrawn to include Crimea as part of Russia. Nothing indicates that Russia will soon give back its newly won prize.
David Silverman is a freshman majoring in economics.