For John, BLUF: Sir Winston Churchill once said "jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war war". Nothing to see here; just move along.
For those who have been around from before World War Two or for those who picked up a bit of history in school, the current situation in the Ukraine might seem familiar. Remember the 29 September 1938 Munich Agreement, amongst Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy? The result was, without the presence of Czechoslovakia, the ceding to Germany of the defensive territory in Northwest Czechoslovakia that contained many German speaking Czechs. Germany and its friends cleaned up the rest of Czechoslovakia by March of 1939.♠
Then there is the phrase "Peace for Our Time", spoken on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain after returning from Berlin and landing at Heston Airport and motoring to Number 10 Downing Street.
Further back in history there is the Melian dialogue, which includes this famous passage (Thucydides, 5.89)
For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Spartans, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. [Emphasis Added]For those who wish for the United States to just reach out and smack Russia, we don't have the military forces in place. It would take a while to assemble them and then we would have conventional war between nuclear armed powers. That doesn't sound so good.
Looking at it from another direction, Russia is not playing a strong hand. It is facing demographic collapse and has a weak industrial sector. President Putin may well find increasing difficulty in maintaining control of its weaker neighbors (this would parallel what the Soviet Union found in Eastern Europe, and the Baltic countries). Further, as they have found in Chechnya, destabilising an area to assert control creates a running sore which takes a very long time to heal, if it ever does.
In addition, we should consider the possibility that Putin is acting for fear that the deposing of Yanukovich will set in motion forces leading to his own ouster. This would be like the way that turmoil in Tunisia set in motion forces that led to the ousting of several other unpopular regimes in North Africa and the Middle East.
About the situation, I would go with Zhou Enlai, who concluded it is "too soon to tell" about the impact of the French Revolution.
Regards — Cliff
♠ At the end of World War Two the Sudetenland was returned to Czechoslovakia and the German population expelled.