The upshot of the Russian position is that Russia will not pull back the troops massed on the border, but they will accept the concept of a “Federal” Ukraine. Now on the surface that sounds almost reasonable (at least reasonable as defined in Russia), until you think through what the word “Federal” means in this case. Here Federal means that Ukraine needs to break itself up into semi-autonomous regions that will then make their own decisions regarding social, religious, and language issues. In other words, let’s set these regions up for Crimean-type take over, with phony referendums, and the chance to send in young “masked men” to help organize things like elections. This is a pretty good deal if you want to break the Ukraine apart slowly, and with what Putin will argue is legitimacy from the locals who vote to secede and join Russia.
In fact, today, just to sweeten the pot a little, Putin decreed that Crimea is a “Special Economic Zone” which entitles the residents to special tax breaks and other perks. Now he can point to any potential eastern breakaway regions, that might have larger Russian populations, and say, “See, what coming to Mother Russia can do for you?!” It is insidious, but it has the option of getting the Russians what they want, without having to use the first combat soldier or the force of arms. The result will be the same, and we’ll be watching as Secretary Kerry will leap from the plane, waving a piece of paper in the air, while at the same time declaring that we now have “Peace in our time.” ~ Michael S. Pauley