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Russia has Mideast options in response to Ukraine

As the United States weighs its options in response to Russia’s moves in Crimea, Russia holds its own cards, especially with Syria and Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Russian government meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow March 5, 2014. Putin said on Wednesday he did not want political tension to detract from economic cooperation with Russia's "traditional partners", signalling he hopes to avoid spillover from a bitter dispute with the West over Ukraine.  REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RE
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Will Russia’s occupation of Crimea produce a fundamental break between Moscow and Western capitals? This is the central strategic question emerging as Russia’s troops consolidate their positions and Western leaders scramble to develop their responses. The answer is not yet apparent, though it could have important implications for US policy in Europe and around the world — particularly in the Middle East.

After a flurry of empty bombast — notwithstanding their rhetoric, neither the United States nor any major European nation has yet imposed the “costs” or “consequences” they have announced — most Western governments now appear to be looking for a negotiated solution, while reserving the prospect of economic sanctions for the future. The United States is leaning further forward, but Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel appears uninterested in taking this approach toward a top trading partner. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has stated explicitly that his government has not yet reached the point of reconsidering the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia’s navy.

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