Russia's aggression has yielded, one clear territorial gain - Crimea - that does not in the short or medium run alter the balance of power anywhere and in the long run maybe only in the Black Sea. While Russia's annexation of large part of East Ukraine or integrating all of Ukraine into its economic and security structures would surely make Russia stronger , as well bringing its forces closer to Nato, it is unlikely to be able to achieve any of the above without incurring enormous costs that offset any potential gain.
If Russia is undertaking actions that provide it little benefit in terms of the global and continental balance of power - in the short and perhaps long term - then what costs and risks should Nato and the U.S. be willing to impose on themselves?
I would suggest that any policy response should be calibrated to commit as few resources as necessary to frustrate the Russians while avoiding the risk of sprinting or even stumbling up the escalation ladder with all the attendant risks that involves. Unless a formula can be discovered to freeze the conflict - a frozen conflict may be Russia's objective - what is likely to occur, even if the Ukraine is provided new armaments, is continuation of a low level conflict that destroys much of East Ukraine and costs a few thousand more lives. Ultimately our energy should be focused on stopping the killing.
Any Nato response should try to avoid:
- A significant increase in the level of violence occurring in Ukraine;
- A commitment to Ukraine , in the medium to long term i.e. Nato membership, that increases the risks of a confrontation with Russia in the future;
- An open ended financial commitment to Ukraine that costs the EU states scare public sector resources;
- Legal recognition of Crimea's annexation;
- The further partition of Ukraine