The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.), April 25, 2014

The U.S. and European responses to Russia's annexation of Crimea and military aggressive in eastern Ukraine are limited and unlikely to force a reversal of Kremlin policy anytime soon. The unraveling of a none-too-useful agreement reached last week suggests matters may get worse in the days and weeks ahead.

But what diplomacy cannot achieve, economic realities might.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, $51 billion in capital has left Russia in the first three months of this year. Russia expects to see economic growth of just 1 percent in 2014, and the World Bank says Russia could see a 2 percent reduction in growth.

According to the New York Times, conditions in Crimea have deteriorated since the Russian takeover, with banks closed, long waits to obtain passports, cuts in food imports, and a nightmare of rules and regulations as Ukrainians are forced to revamp licenses, insurance, and more.

The change in Crimea -- sudden, unchanged, and divisive -- may serve the geopolitical goals and ego of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has orchestrated the annexation and the undermining of Ukrainian authority in several of that nation's eastern cities.

But even Putin may not appreciate how dangerous his war games are to Russia itself. An already high price could become catastrophic should Putin's subversion tip Ukraine into a full civil war.

The U.S. and Europe may not hold any trump cards in this Cold War replay, but they may not need any. The world has grown more economically integrated since the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russia may be more vulnerable than its tanks, AK-47s, and special forces suggest.

The cost of satisfying Putin's ambitions may yet prove too high -- even for Putin.