The chess game began with Putin's brilliant handling of the Russian winter Olympics, an opening "knight" move to "F3." The Crimean was a pawn. Eastern Ukraine was perhaps another knight. Latvia is a pawn en passant.
Losing Germany as an ally on sanctions, that's worth at least a loss of a knight for the US.
The Chinese-Russian natural gas pipeline was at least a loss of a rook for the United States, possibly even worth the queen. The loss of Russian rocket engines was a bishop loss for Russia, but that was more than made up for by the Chinese-Russian hegemony, worthy of castling early.At that point: Russian had lost a couple of pawns and a bishop, and had two knights on the attack, in the center of the board, and had already castled. The US had lost several pawns, a knight, and a rook, or possibly the queen.
To this can be added two more moves.
First, it looks like Putin's might take two or three more pawns: the Baltic nations. Germany's Der Spiegel via Reuters is reporting that there is not much the west can do if Putin decides to take back the Baltic states.
NATO would struggle to defend the Baltic states from any Russian aggression "with conventional means", Germany's Spiegel magazine reported on Sunday, citing sources close to the organization and a draft of a NATO planning document.
Eastern European states are nervous about Russia after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and massed 40,000 troops on Ukraine's borders.
The United States has sent 600 soldiers to the three Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - and Poland to take part in exercises to bolster NATO's presence in eastern Europe.Second, it looks like Putin takes a second rook, meaning Putin has captured two rooks or a rook and the queen. The second rook (or a queen): trillions (yes, trillions) of dollars of off-shore oil. The Dallas News is reporting:
When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean Peninsula but also a maritime claim more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.
Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea.
But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Moscow dominion over potentially vast oil and gas resources while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.
Moscow did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. Russia had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.So, at this point, Putin's knights remain on the attack; he controls the center of the board; he has castled; and has taken the following pieces: the queen, a rook, a knight, and several pawns. Putin has lost only a pawn, maybe two, and a bishop.
The Baltic countries could easily become a bargaining chip for Putin: their continued sovereignty in exchange for unfettered claim to the Black Sea. It's very similar to the Cuban missile crisis when Russia agreed to remove missiles from Cuba in exchange for the US dismantling nuclear-tipped missiles in Turkey aimed at Russia.