Power and decisiveness are political aphrodisiacs. Putin becomes more attractive to some people when contrasted to the feckless Obama. Those who might sympathize with the Ukraine are by necessity weak as there is no military option without risking an unthinkable world war.
Nationalism also plays into this situation. Putin is a Russian ultranationalist. That is attractive to many who hate diversity in the west.
Not only is the Ukraine screwed, much of the former Soviet Union awaits a similar fate. Pushing ethnic Russians into East Europe was an obvious move to secure their holdings by Stalin and his successors.
Those people were there for a very long time. They’re not new residents. I believe many of them have been there at least three generations. What’s different now is that Putin is using the same tactic that Hitler used regarding Germans outside of Nazi Germany. That is, he creates a situation where there is unrest, as he’s done in Ukraine with his puppet who was overthrown. Then, Putin, perforce as he’d have us believe, comes to the rescue. Sure, it’ll fool some people. Certainly, his fan club here, the Putinistas are fooled, but not many are fooled in Europe. It’s been a real wake up call for Europe; they see how feckless Obama is and they see how cynical Putin is. Possibly, this will get them to break out their pocketbooks and buy the types of weapons needed to protect themselves. In addition, it’s time for the US and its business to show the nations that care to be energy independent how to do it. We have the technology and must find the will. This will do more to break Putin and peacefully end Putinanista-ism than anything else available, like sanctions. Sanctions targeted at Putin’s crony capitalist pals will help. But it’s energy independence that will beat Putin. Never was the need more urgent.