My personal stance is that allying with the Ukraine or other forms of intense meddling there are not really beneficial to my country and thus no defence policy.Our national security would rather be degraded by getting involved closely rather than staying away.
This is a quite egoistic view, of course: The view of a state as a club providing services to its members. It's not about the state as an entity that's providing welfare to foreign countries.
This doesn't mean economic aid is wrong, though: It's in part economic policy, and in part there's a 'feel good factor' provided to the club members as a state service to them.
There's also a way how supporting the Ukraine intensely may provide a 'feel good factor' to the citizens/club members large enough to justify the effort (short of war):
Experimental psychologists have found out long ago that most humans are not plain egoists. Most of us -I presume some very right wing folks rather not- are willing to sacrifice something in order to punish someone who has been unfair to a third person.
We have this pattern of behaviour apparently because it helps to build and maintain a community (a clan, a tribe). A bunch of 100% egoists has a much lesser case for building a community - and that's evolutionary inferior apparently. The few per cent egoists are basically free riders on the others' efforts to keep the community functional.
So we've got these instincts, and no doubt many of us are now wooing for the Ukrainians and interested in helping them. Yes, even though there's no substantial benefit for ourselves in sight.
Economists call this a preference, and it's perfectly legitimate for a state (government) to try to meet the citizens' preferences. That's even what a state is all about.
So basically there is a justifiable case for supporting the Ukraine with substantial effort. Now how to do it?
* Proposal to help train the militias
* Proposal to supply weapons
* Sanctions against Russia
* Sanctions against Russia's plutocrats and political elite
* Annoying interference by OSCE and UN
This is the usual stuff, and doesn't require much of a strategy.
There is potential for a strategy, though: Putin's position isn't nearly as good as one might think under the impression of recent events. And that's where my intro about how to get around my long-held position matters:
Rational or not, Putin is not going to like having NATO or EU at Moscow's doorsteps.
Here's a graphic from my 2009-11 text "Strategic depth - always valuable?":
I'm sure Putin wouldn't agree with me on what I wrote back then, so the reasoning from that text isn't relevant here. The longest arrow shows the distance between Moscow and NATO during the Cold War, the two medium length ones show the distance today and the shortest one shows how it would be if the Ukraine joined NATO.
He's not going to like that, so he's going to prevent it. He cannot do so by splitting up the Ukraine:
|Russian as mother tongue according to 2001 census, (c)Tovel|
Very little of the Ukraine that's most close to Moscow is speaking Russian. He might cut away that small part up there, but that would gain only two or three hours worth of an armoured brigade's advance. Moscow would still be most unpleasantly close to NATO. Russia is simply not accustomed to this.
Putin might cut off some more parts of the Ukraine - especially in the East. This would only drive up the share of ethnic Ukrainians in the remainder of the country and would furthermore make them feel most vulnerable and opposed to Russia. The predictable outcome would be an application to join the NATO.
Putin may or may not have anticipated his success so far, but now he's in a most tricky situation. he's kind of near his culminating point. The farther he goes, the more the whole thing might blow up in his face. He cannot annex or control the whole Ukraine, after all. He lacks the troops and the domestic stability for this.
And this is where the West has an extremely powerful bargaining chip:
We should accept that the vast majority of Crimeans want to be part of Russia, and a Russo-Ukrainian border treaty moving some areas (the dark ones near the border in the map above) to Russia. But then Putin's in trouble: There would be a lingering threat of the Ukraine joining NATO (and the EU, which takes longer). He might get lucky and some European government might choose to block an application, but he cannot on his own effort keep NATO's great powers from entering an alliance with the Ukraine. The USA and a couple Balkan NATO members (for robust lines of communication) would already suffice to turn the Ukraine into a firmly Western country.
About 500 km from Moscow.
That's at the doorstep by Russian standards.
The bargaining chip is even renewable: It's usable again and again for blackmailing as long as you don't consume it by realising the threat.
What could be achieved with this bargaining chip?
A settlement on the new, almost satisfactory Ukrainian borders, Russian 'peacekeeper' withdrawal from Transnistria, withdrawal from Abchasia and South Ossetia?
But that would be a strategic approach to the problem, may run counter to some instincts and it wouldn't benefit the MIC or please the 'hawks'. One would also need to explain it to every new head of government in involved countries to sustain the threat.
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By the way; Luttwak offered an alternative to reflexive sanctions: Increase Russia's brain drain by attracting well-educated professionals as immigrants. That's decidedly unsexy for 'hawks' as well.
The United States and Germany would be in top starting positions to execute this alternative strategy. It would be an anti-Russia and very long-term action, though. humans get used to almost everything, and the creeping normality of lack of talent in a country would probably not influence policies much.