What Will Putin Do Next?

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As the crisis in Crimea continues to escalate, the possibility of a new Russian expansion and the threat of a new balkanization is fostering a sense of insecurity across the West.

The regional parliament in Crimea announced a March 16 referendum that will give citizens a chance to vote to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia. That referendum has been rejected by the government of Ukraine, and an arrest warrant has been issued for the new prime minister of Crimea.

Should the vote to secede pass, Moscow has signaled it will embrace Crimea's decision to break away from Ukraine and become a new region of the Russian Federation. This is the first public signal the Kremlin has given for support of secession, but the United States and other countries have denounced the vote as a violation of international law. 

“The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law," President Barack Obama said Thursday. "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.”

While much of the analysis of the conflict has focused on Russia's relationship with the West, this crisis could also have major implications for its relationship with the East and long lasting consequences for the international community.

Rodger Baker is the vice president of Asia-Pacific analysis at Stratfor, a global intelligence research firm. He explores Russia's plans and the political and economic impact the crisis could have on the West. 

Though the conflict can have long-term geopolitical impacts, there is also a great deal of fear emerging in the Crimean peninsula for ethnic minorities. In May of 1944, Joseph Stalin ordered his police to tag the houses of Crimean Tatars, the native Muslim residents of the peninsula, with an X. Within a matter of days, all of them were evicted from their homes, loaded onto trains, and sent to Central Asia, on the pretext that the community had collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Crimea.

And now it looks like the practice is starting again. Natalia Antelava, a reporter for the BBC, The New Yorker and PRI's The World, explains.