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March 3, 2014
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Russia's invasion of Crimea in the Ukraine caught much of the world by surprise. Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown down a gauntlet to the West, whether that was his intention or not. Here are four columns that help explain what Russia is thinking, and how this invasion could shape the world. --Peter Weber

With the Crimea invasion, "Putin is striking back and playing for keeps in Ukraine," says Damon Wilson at the New Atlanticist. We shouldn't be surprised:

The classic Putin playbook is now on display: fuel separatist sentiments, justify military action by asserting the need to protect ethnic Russians (or at least passport holders), and then "maintain the peace" by stationing Russian forces permanently. In effect, dismember your weak neighbors. [New Atlanticist]

America, and President Obama, will lose in any just about any resolution of the Ukraine crisis, says Aaron David Miller at CNN. In the U.S., "we have a very risk-averse president who's focused more on domestic affairs than foreign policy":

That president is facing a crisis in Ukraine, where geography, history, and proximity favor Putin and leave Washington with a weaker hand. Perhaps some face-saving win-win can be devised. But if not — and perhaps unfairly, because Obama's options are bad ones — America will again be judged a weak and feckless power. [CNN]

"In the parallel universe of the Russian media, the preemptive and humanitarian nature of the operation gets pride of place," says Charles King at The New York Times. In this telling, by Putin and his various mouthpieces, Russia is stepping in not just to protect ethnic Russians, but restore a democratically elected president ousted by what Russia calls "fascists" and thugs. "This interpretive frame may be hard to understand, but some things are not wrong just because Russians happen to believe them":

The Crimean affair is a grand experiment in Mr. Putin's strategy of equivalence: countering every criticism of his government's behavior with a page from the West's own playbook. If his government has a guiding ideology, it is not the concept of restoring the old Soviet Union. It is rather his commitment to exposing what Russian politicians routinely call the "double standards" of American and European foreign policy and revealing the hidden workings of raison d'état — the hardnosed and pragmatic calculation of interests that average citizens from Moscow to Beijing to New Delhi actually believe drives the policies of all great powers. [New York Times]

Putin doesn't care about what the West thinks or, even, does: "After the Olympics, the next 'event' is the Crimea, as cynical as that may sound," says KermlinRussia, a satirical Twitter duo who also writes serious columns on politics and the economy, in The New Republic. "For foreign observers this was a surprise, but not for Russians":

The West has already begun to threaten Russia with political and economic isolation, but this stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of Putin's power. For example, Western analysts say that "Russia will not invade Crimea because Russia's economy is in bad shape and this would only weaken it further." They are mistaken. Putin no longer needs economic growth. He has grasped the contradiction between economic growth and the consolidation of his own power, and he has made his choice. [New Republic]

12:34 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned of grave consequences for failure to resolve the United States' differences with North Korea via diplomacy while speaking on CBS Sunday.

"A conflict with North Korea would probably be the worst kind of fighting in most people's lifetimes," Mattis said in a Face the Nation interview. "This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well," he added. "But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means." Pyonyang claimed to test an anti-aircraft missile Sunday morning, its third weapons test in as many weeks.

In the same conversation, Mattis described pursuing a more aggressive approach to the fight against the Islamic State. "The bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot. We have already shifted from attrition tactics where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them," he said. Watch an excerpt of his comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m. ET
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A man named Willie Cory Godbolt confessed Sunday to fatally shooting eight people in three homes in the towns of Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. Among the dead was a sheriff’s deputy called to investigate after a neighbor reported a disturbance. The identities of the victims have not been released.

"I ain't fit to live, not after what I done," Godbolt confessed to a local paper after he was arrested. "Not in y'all eyes, not in nobody else's eyes." Godbolt said he did not intend to hurt the deputy — "My pain wasn't designed for him. He was just there" — but planned to provoke police into killing him: "Suicide by cop was my intention."

A 16-year-old boy Godbolt took hostage escaped unharmed, and law enforcement are expected to bring charges soon. Godbolt is believed to have been disputing custody of his children when he attacked. Bonnie Kristian

11:50 a.m. ET
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"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday in Munich in comments understood to reference Europe's reliance on the United States. "I've experienced that in the last few days," she continued. "We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands" and "fight for our own destiny."

When President Trump met with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, he reiterated his critique that allies are too dependent on the United States, calling their failure to make meet a pledged 2 percent of GDP defense spending target unfair to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday maintained Trump is supportive of the alliance. "I think when President Trump chooses to go to NATO personally and stand there alongside the other more than two dozen nations in NATO, that was his statement, not words, actions," he said in a CBS interview. Bonnie Kristian

11:23 a.m. ET
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British police on Sunday arrested a 25-year-old man in connection to the suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert Monday. This is the 14th arrest linked to the attack; 12 people remain in custody.

On Saturday, police released photos of Salman Abedi, the Manchester-born man responsible for the bombing. "We are gathering a detailed picture of Abedi as the investigation develops and now need people to tell us if they have any information about his movement," said an official statement.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also implemented a temporary exclusion order, requiring special vetting for "suspected Islamic terrorists" seeking to return to the U.K. until it is certain Abedi does not have accomplices still on the loose. "The operation is still at full tilt," Rudd said, with about 1,000 people working the case. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
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The Department of Homeland Security "might" prohibit laptops as carry-on items for all international flights in and out of the United States, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The United States being a "free and open society" is "one of our vulnerabilities," Kelly said. "There's a real threat — numerous threats against aviation. That's really the thing that they're obsessed with, the terrorists: the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of mostly U.S. folks." Electronic carry-ons are already limited for flights from 10 Muslim-majority countries in the Mideast and North Africa.

Kelly also said he would "likely" expand nationwide a new TSA policy of requiring passengers to more substantially unpack their carry-on bags at the checkpoint, separating food and paper items into different bins. A 2015 DHS investigation found TSA officers failed to detect 95 percent of explosives and weapons passed through airport security in an internal test. Terrorism experts say the long lines caused by slow TSA checkpoints are themselves a security risk. Bonnie Kristian

10:04 a.m. ET

President Trump revisited familiar territory on Twitter Sunday morning, raging against "fake news" and urging his followers to disbelieve any news reports citing unnamed sources.

These posts come just two days after unnamed sources alleged Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner attempted to arrange backchannel communications between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, deepening suspicion of election manipulation collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Bonnie Kristian

9:56 a.m. ET
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The bodies of eight men who appeared to be civilians executed for attempting to flee hostilities were found Sunday on the outskirts of Marawi City in the Philippines, where militants claiming ties to the Islamic State terrorist group have staged a six-day occupation. By one body, a sign was placed reading "munafik," which means "traitor" or "hypocrite."

This brings the death toll of the conflict to about 85, including at least 19 civilians. Controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in the area as government forces combat the rebels using ground troops and airstrikes.

Civilian evacuations are also underway. "Some have no food at all. Some fear for their lives," said Zia Alonto Adiong, an official organizing rescue efforts. "This is a conflict that has gone beyond proportion. The magnitude of the degree of the damage and the people that are affected ... it's really massive." Bonnie Kristian

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