Putin’s next move is easy. Split any/all coalition that U.S. seeks to develop. This has already been done with Germanic/Polish perfidity. If the U.S. doesn’t any unilaterally, then it should seek to punish Putin with long term diplomatic, economic consequences.
Neither will work given Putin’s accurate grasp of just how weak the American President has become. The trap is believing that averting a confrontation is the best alternative.
Ask the Ukrainians.
Putin will control the May vote/referrendum, he’ll also control eastern Ukraine & Crimea. Absent a direct violent response from the U.S. effectively strengthening local players; this is end well for Putin.
Why? Because Putin has correctly calculated American resolve. He’s done the same with NATO, new NATO members and every/all multilateral institution around.
Who should worry? The entire Baltic region, Poland, Kazakhstan, even Germany itself isn’t safe given a lack of a nuclear deterrent, no indigenous fuel supply and a weak U.S. President.
The conceit that geography no longer matters is a western fatal conceit. So is the moralizing that now animates western engagement of Russia. How else to say it: Putin doesn’t fear the U.S.
This well end well for Putin, unless the American’s begin to develop and field a game plan on the ground in this region to make Putin pay for his excessive expansion.