I think most people are well aware of the Barney Fife character from the Andy Griffith show, with his shaky gun hand, empty weapon, and a single bullet in his buttoned shirt pocket. I suspect that Vladamir Putin has looked into Obama's eyes and all he sees is Barney Fife. Maybe, even, Barney Fife "light". Sadly, Obama doesn't have "Andy" around to pull his behind out of the fire when things really get rough.
Just a few years ago -- six to be exact -- moving U.S. warships into an adversary's backyard meant something; especially when it was a guy like George Bush, a known war hawk, who was directing the movement. Putin understood this and respected such power. But, when Obama challenged Putin by moving U.S. warships into the Black Sea, it was like Barney drawing his unloaded gun. Putin knew quite well it was just an idle threat. After all, he observed our President's weak behavior in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons. Then, when Obama said there would be "costs" if Russia went any further on his movement into Crimea and the Ukraine, Putin responded by moving fresh troops into the area. Are you getting the picture?
Obama told Russia that the United States will "stand" with the Europeans and the rest of the world (not lead) and that there will be "costs". But, will the rest of the world really stand with us and will there truly be costs?
First of all, Russia, as a member of the United Nation's Security Council, has veto power and nothing that condemns them or that would impose sanctions on them would ever come out of the U.N. So, then, that leaves NATO to act against Russia's aggression. Except for the United States, all the other member nations are out of Europe. Russia supplies Europe with 20% of its natural gas and 38% of all its imported oil. If threatened by sanctions, Russia need only respond by turning off the gas and oil supplies and the "costs" would be much greater than what Obama and NATO could inflict on Putin. We know this can be done for a fact because, in 2006, Russia, in a dispute over natural gas pricing, cut pipeline deliveries of gas to the Ukraine and "Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovakia all reported drops of around 30%."
Once again, Putin has put Obama in check and is now just waiting to declare checkmate. The only thing our Fife-like President can do is give speeches of condemnation and watch Putin take what he wants. While it is possible that Obama might go it alone and place some limited sanctions on Russia, Putin still might punish Europe in retaliation. For sure, Putin absolutely knows that Obama will never unbutton that shirt pocket of his and actually load that bullet.
Obama warns Russia of 'costs' for intervention in Ukraine: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/28/us-ukraine-crisis-obama-costs-idUSBREA1R21M20140228
Ukraine/Russia gas dispute: The European Impact: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4569846.stm