Zack Beauchamp, a frequent contributor to The Week, has an interesting analysis at ThinkProgress concluding that the crisis in Ukraine does not constitute a return of the Cold War. If anything, he argues, it shows just how far Russia has fallen as a global power.
The fact is that Russia’s Ukraine move is an act of weakness, not strength — an act, as Kerry aptly characterized it, anachronistic in both moral and strategic terms. The fact Russia is trying something like this exposes the country’s global strategy as fundamentally mismatched to 21st century realities. There isn’t a new Cold War. [ThinkProgress]
The entire essay falls under an emerging school of thought that contends Russia has made a strategic mistake in invading Ukraine. In this view, Russia has isolated itself on the international stage, spooked its neighbors into rushing into the arms of the West, invited a debilitating economic and political response from Europe and the U.S., and embroiled itself in a military conflict that could turn into a major headache.
The other school of thought is that Vladimir Putin has successfully taken advantage of a global vacuum of power to expand Russia's sphere of influence, all while boosting his strongman status and discouraging dissent at home. Julia Ioffe of The New Republic said on CNN today that Putin had "checkmated" the West with regards to Ukraine.