Good stuff from TNR’s Joshua Tucker on Ukraine and Russia:
These points notwithstanding, an invasion of Ukraine by Russia remains very unlikely in the near future for a whole host of reasons. First and foremost, an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine would likely be a different affair from the one between Russia and Georgia by orders of magnitude; one expert on the Russian military responded to my query by estimating that if the Georgian military was a 1 and the Russian military a 10 on a 1-10 scale, the Ukrainian military would be about a 5 or a 6. Second, Russia has plenty of its own troubles to deal with at the moment in the wake of the global financial crisis. This particular factor will be greatly exacerbated if the price of oil–which has provided a great deal of the backbone to Russia’s newly aggressive foreign policy tactics–continues to fall. Third, Russia paid a heavy price for its invasion of Georgia, including international condemnation, the flight of foreign capital from Russian markets, and even encouragement of separatists within its own borders. Finally, Russia still hopes to extend the lease of the Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol beyond 2017, and any armed conflict with Ukraine that did not result in a complete annexation of Crimea would essentially end that possibility.
For more background on the subject, I’d recommend the Wikipedia entry on Ukraine’s massive military.