Crimea has voted for independence from Ukraine, and no doubt will soon appeal to be annexed by Russia. Putin's hand is unmistakable in this. The EU and America will wring their hands and mutter darkly about worsening relations and consequences, and there will probably have to be something, no matter how ineffectual.
So why did Putin do this? While it must have been fun for the folks in the Kremlin to stick their thumbs into Obama's eye, I don't get the feeling that they do a lot just for giggles. This strikes me as something carefully thought out.
My take is that Putin thinks that the West was behind the protests, and may in fact have had agents provocateurs causing much of the violence, in a "made for TV" sense. That Youtube video by Ukraine Girl? Very professional editing and high production values. Grass roots or made for TV?
I don't know, but I think I know what Putin thinks. He thinks that the whole Ukrainian popular revolution was orchestrated from Washington and from Brussels. And so the Crimea situation is designed to let Washington and Brussels know what to expect the next time. And to let them know that there really shouldn't be a next time.
Did Washington and Brussels arrange the whole thing? Who knows? But there's no question that the Russians think we were behind it. Their reaction is aimed at shifting our potential future lans to meddle in what they see as their back yard.