.. ultimately, only time will tell ..<quoted text>I don't know if the European leaders 'know more about the situation' than the average American, but they do have more at stake. It is, after all, their back yard, and any reprisals for western economic sanctions (for example) will fall more directly on their countries.
Besides ... getting the European leadership to do anything but talk about not doing something is a lot like herding cats.
I think you're right to say to understand what's going on you need to understand the region's history - but that's damned complicated. You have centuries of ties to Russia, but you also have centuries of attempts on the part of the Ukrainians to go their own way.
You can also overplay the east west struggle - to make this into poor misunderstood Russia being victimized by the west. Sell that one to the Poles. Or the Latvians. Or the Estonians. Or the Lithuanians. Or the Hungarians. Or the citizens of the former Czechoslovakia. Tell the Finns that the Russian incursion into Crimea was just them protecting the rights of Crimean citizens.
Hell ... tell Chechnya that the Russians have decided that if a region doesn't want to be a part of a country, they can just walk away. Chechnya could use a good laugh.
As far as your touching story of the Ukrainian American who thought the Soviet Union was an ideal society ... see, I too know a Ukrainian American who spoke of his travels east. His travels east weren't exactly voluntary, however, and he didn't wax nearly as nostalgic as your acquaintance did.
It's all chatter indeed...
.. personally, I don't think Putin will stop at the Crimea, he wants the Ukraine and Belarus. After that, who knows ??..
.. for all practical purposes, European leadership is looking the other way. Should a NATO Nation be invaded, what do you think will happen ??..