Sanctions won't work on Russia: it is too big, too rich, and too integrated. And imposing them would be hypocritical anyway, given that China is worse. The West will end up doing a deal, so we might as well start thinking about one now. Talking to the regime of Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, may be unpalatable. Not talking to it will be disastrous.
Edward Lucas: Putin's defenders in the West ignore those who know Russia best
These are the arguments of those who believe that Western policy on Ukraine is fundamentally misconceived, part of a trail of errors going back 25 years. We failed to realise that modern Russia was a completely different country from the Soviet Union. By treating it as an enemy – demeaning, constraining and ignoring it – we made it into one.
History suggests a different interpretation. We have not humiliated Russia over the past 25 years. We have bent over backwards to flatter, encourage and appease it. We showered Russia with money in the 1990s to try to salvage an economy ruined by the Soviet collapse. We brought Russia into the G8 and the Council of Europe, and into the waiting room of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, although it was far from meeting the standards and values of any of those organisations. In short: we tried being nice. It did not work.
Yes, NATO and the European Union did expand – but not as part of a power-grab. The ex-communist countries were desperate to join. History had taught them the danger of being excluded from decision-making about their future. And the events of the past few months have shown how right they were. Does anyone really think Moldova is in a better state for staying neutral?
Some commentators, such as my friend Peter Hitchens, argue that the Baltic states endangered themselves by joining NATO. But if your neighbour is so irascible that he tries to forbid you from installing a burglar alarm, is that not a particularly good reason to want it? If Russia had taken the security concerns of its neighbours seriously and tried to allay them, NATO would have never expanded. It might well have dissolved.
The real problem with Russia is not that the outside world is mistreating it, but that it cannot get on with the outside world. The Kremlin (and, sadly, a large slice of the Russian people) have not yet got over the country's imperial history. For most post-colonial countries, history gives responsibilities, not rights. But Russia does not want reconciliation with countries that it and the Soviet Union occupied and traumatised in past decades and centuries. It wants them to behave. And if they will not behave, it tries to subvert them.
I have just been reading the commendable annual report of the Estonian Security Police (available at is.gd/kapo2013). Its laconic prose gives an alarming insight into life on Europe's front line. It highlights the way in which different Kremlin-backed organisations try to stir up trouble among Estonians of Russian ethnic background – including arranging paramilitary summer camps, one of which was sponsored by the GRU (Russian military intelligence) and taught everything from propaganda skills to battlefield medicine. Similar efforts are under way in Latvia too.
If Russia were truly a misunderstood but essentially peaceable power, responding only to intolerable provocations, then why has it been fomenting trouble in the Baltic states for so many years? These countries, who know Russia better than any Westerner, have done their best to warn us – and in return have been systematically patronised and ignored, not least by the West's Russia experts, who have been wrong at every stage about the country they purport to study.