Russia’s recent breaches of international law – in Georgia, the Ukraine and Syria – render the sanctions being imposed on it by the international community a reasonable response. Until there is a clear sign of intent by Russia to alter its behaviour in these countries, then the sanctions should be retained.
This does not mean, though, that there cannot be recognition of the understandable and legitimate interests of Russia in these and other countries. For Russia to have concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russians outside its borders is perfectly natural, and there should be an international response in support of Russia to insist on the protection of the fundamental rights of ethnic Russians.
It is also entirely reasonable for regions outside the borders of Russia with a majority Russian population to exercise their democratic right, if they so wish, to become part of Russia. Such a move should, though, take place without Russian military intervention so as to be in line with international law. By the same token, however, military force should not be used to prevent secession against the wishes of the majority and countries using such force should be subject to the same sanctions as Russia is now experiencing.
The Russian government also has the right (and the duty) to protect the security of its people. Action against terrorist groups outside its borders may be legitimated by these security concerns. Indeed, we and other western nations are likely to share such concerns. Any such action, though, should be with international agreement and should not be used to mask the pursuit of wider geopolitical goals – such as the support of the Assad regime in Syria.
None of this means displaying any weakness in the face of Russian aggression towards neighbouring countries. The upkeep of international law, and our own treaty obligations designed for the mutual protection of our security interests, mandate a total commitment to the territorial integrity of countries bordering Russia – backed by military force, if necessary – where this is in line with the democratic will of the peoples of those countries and the regions constituting them.