The Russian/Ukrainian conflict in Crimea appears to be intensifying, defying the temperate predictions of many policy experts. Russia's parliament has approved the incursion of military forces into Ukraine's Crimea region, an act the Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister says is "a declaration of war."
Russian military helicopters and transport planes have made an incursion into Ukraine and armed gunmen have taken control of the country's main airport and other strategic buildings, according to Ukraine's UN ambassador.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told CNN that Russian troops marched on three Ukrainian military bases in Crimea and demanded Ukrainian forces lay down their arms and surrender, and the AP observed "a convoy of hundreds of Russian troops" on their way to Crimea's capital city.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said "it appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula," and a senior administration official speaking under condition of anonymity said that Russia does in fact have "complete operational control" of the region, with more than 6,000 troops in place.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the leaders of G8 countries and others were "prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia" with sanctions and various other means in response to the invasion.
They're prepared to put sanctions in place. They're prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can't imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world, and particularly if it involves violence.
But so far, there has been no public consideration of an armed intervention by US or NATO forces - with a boycott of the G8 summit at Sochi being chief among the hypothetical responses if Russia does not pull back its troops - and Kerry said a military solution was the least desirable outcome.
The last thing anybody wants is a military option. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations.
The contents of a 2006 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks seems to anticipate this sort of event, referring to Crimea as Ukraine's "Soft underbelly."