In the hours following Moscow’s recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, analysts have been scrambling to predict what the fallout will be for the country, and for the world. Cutting virtually all ties with the West and seeing its economy crippled by sanctions are both apparently on the agenda for Russia. But to those forecasting economic and political apocalypse: relax, nothing of that scale has happened yet.
In reality, Moscow has only made a probing move, testing the waters. There will evidently be sanctions – and some have already been unveiled – but hardly the “sanction regime from hell” that has been promised.
Why so? Well, Moscow still has a strong hand. For one, Russian troops might move into the Donbass. The contingent may be small or large, stationed in barracks around Donetsk or Lugansk, or it may deploy at the separation line. And how would it react to a shelling from Ukraine? Nobody knows, and that unpredictability means outcomes are still up for grabs.