The flashpoint of Ukrainian conflict has now moved to the Russian-majority region of Crimea, writes Deutsche Welle, and it is unlikely that either the EU or the US will intervene as the immediate threat of a civil conflict in Kiev has passed.
On Wednesday President Vladimir Putin ordered combat troops in western Russia on alert as tensions between pro- and anti-Kremlin protesters in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula escalated. This area is also the location of Russia's Black Sea naval fleet.
Demonstrations by thousands of pro- and anti-Russian protesters descended into fist fights outside Crimea's regional parliament in Simferopol on Wednesday, according to news agency reports. Dozens of protesters chanted, "Russia, save us," while calling Ukraine's provisional government "bandits."
NATO defense ministers have reiterated their commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and independence.
"NATO allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in central and eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole," the defense ministers said in a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
"This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East...," Kerry said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Washington. "This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future." He reiterated that the US did not view the unpredictable political circumstances in Ukraine as a Cold War-style clash with Russia.
The US and EU are not likely to intervene in the conflict because they cannot actually do much to help maintain Ukraine's territorial integrity, according to Joerg Forbrig, an Eastern Europe expert with the German Marshall Fund. In his opinion this situation harks back to the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, in which Moscow's military intervention led to the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Tbilisi's control. The West was unable to prevent the division of Georgia, albeit having assumed diplomatic engagements.
"The West has very limited means of enforcing this message," Forbrig told DW. "What we can clearly rule out is that the West would rush to the help of the Ukrainian government to safeguard this integrity." However, he does not say the same of Russia. "There have been visits by Russian officials, members of parliament, to encourage these separatist Russian longings by promising passports, support, even an incorporation with Russia proper," Forbrig told DW.
The Kremlin denies Wednesday's military drill - which involved 150,000 troops – having been related to the political developments in Eastern Ukraine. However, Russian expert Jeffrey Mankoff expressed the opinion that the drill was likely intended to send a political message to Kiev, namely that it should be cautious in terms of how it moves forward with setting up a government. The expert does not believe the leaders in the EU and US are right to assume that Ukraine will without doubt integrate into the West.
"There was a tendency to assume that Ukraine's European future was a foregone conclusion even though, looking at opinion polling in Ukraine, there's clearly a split," Mankoff said. "There are a lot of Ukrainians who are at least cautious about moving toward the EU."