I think a number of analysts and reporters are missing the point when it comes to the current antics of Vladimer Putin regarding the Russian incursion into the Crimean Ukraine and Ukrainian border areas. Based on long personal observation of Russian/Soviet actions going back to World War II, I think I have some slight understanding of the Russian mystique.
Russia was a feudal cripple prior to the Communist revolution and a world non-entity afterwards, that is until WW II. The ill-considered Nazi invasion, engineered almost solely by a psychologically crippled--after grievious injury in an assassination attempt by his own high military officers--Adolf Hitler, inspired massive Allied assistance and eventual German defeat thanks to dogged resistance by outgunned Russian/Soviet armies and incredible suffering by the Russian populace and, of course, the brutal Russian winter. This monumental achievement began the ascendency of the Soviet Union on the world stage. Continued massive aid, largely from the U.S., helped the now Soviet Union, consisting of Russia in the lead and including the star--the Ukraine--and other lesser lights, achieve world status.
At the end of WW II, the U.S. was the sole nuclear power. However, it is not well known that Nazi Germany had a very active atomic bomb development program reputed to be in advance of our own. It was detected by underground agents and subsequently bombed to rubble by the British. Hitler decided not to reconstitute it. [Thank you, Lord!] Both the U.S. and the Soviets grabbed off German nuclear scientists, with The Soviet Union getting most of them along with a bunch of rocket scientists. (Remember the V1 and V2?)
Much of the Soviet nuclear program was the result of extremely effective espionage led, you guesssed it, by the KGB, against a feckless U.S. Consequently, the Soviet Union became a nuclear superpower in competition with the U.S. in what was called the Cold War. Russia/Soviet Union was now a major player on the world stage, a heady experience for what was and still is a depressing, mostly gray country. The Russian people loved their new-found, unfamiliar status as a feared entity.
Then came Reagan, Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980's. This largely was the result of an obsession with military hardware without an economic infrastructure to support it. There are many Russians today who regard those Cold War days with nostalgia, perhaps foremost our friend, Vladimer Putin, former head of the KGB. He has publically stated his ambition to be the architect of the reconstitution of the Soviet Union. The Ukraine, former star member, is his first target.
Having observed weakness, incompetence and indecision in the American executive branch and confident in his immunity from meaningful consequences, I believe he has decided to make his move. Crimea, a strategic region with fine all-year seaports which Russia lacks, is simply the first shoe dropping. Be prepared for more footwear thumps.
Either our Administration is oblivious to what is going on or has not the guts to take meaningful action or, sadly very likely, we do not presently have the military capacity, especially air power, to engage in any major action due to depletion by several unwise and protracted Middle-Eastern wars, followed by extremely unwise budget cuts and downsizing. The Syrian diplomatic/military flop was, I believe, the cardinal event in emboldening Putin to make his move. He is probably unstoppable, particularly because he has the support of much of the Russian public who yearn for the heady days of yesteryear.
Economic sanctions will be ignored by stalwart, long-suffering Russians, for whom suffering is an art form. Such is the consequence of weakness, real or perceived.
In the words of the Lone Ranger, we return to the days of yesteryear. Should be interesting to watch.