The 'smart sanctions' are toothless and Russia is able to exploit the fact that it has the only reliable supplies of oil and gas that can be provided to EU states. The decision to switch to Qatar LNG is one alternative but Libya is in a state of political anarchy and Egypt, another gas producer, is reeling from the 2013 coup
The US supply of gas is far more secure but control over gas is as much about geopolitics and global power stakes as ensuring gas and oil shall be forthcoming. The proxy battle over Syria is about backing rival gas pipeline schemes to bring gas to the Eastern Mediterranean.
Secretary of State Kerry's oblique warnings about scuppering US Russian cooperation over Syria and its CW programme is about reviving the plan to support those Islamist forces aiming to remove Assad and facilitate the Qatari gas pipeline as opposed to the Iranian scheme backed by Tehran and Assad.
Added to this New Great Game is the discovery of deposits of oil and gas in both the Black Sea ( hence the strategic value of Crimea ) and , of course, in the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Syria and Cyprus, one reason Russia maintains a naval base in Tarsous and is dterminrd to shore up Assad
EU responses have been weak and pusillanimous. Their schope for dealing with Russia by trying to impose punitive sanctions is simply treated with contempt by the Kremlin. A more realistic policy, one that had not made backing far right Ukrainian nationalists a way of trying to 'fast track' revolution, has backfired.
Far from being some 'new Stalin or Hitler, the sort of shoddy and threadbare historical cliches always trotted out by those with a limited understanding of history, Putin's style of diplomacy is more akin to that of a nineteenth century statesman as Otto con Bismarck.
The usual, somewhat infantile, complaints about Putin not realising that the 21st century has no room for 'spheres of interest' is simple liberal propaganda. All the major states , whether in the EU post modern imperium or not, regard Ukraine as their backyard and a land they should have dominance over.
Across the globe there is a New Great Game and this very much depends on classic geopolitical contests in which the US and EU, as well as Russia and China, are competing for control and influence over resource rich regions. European liberals have failed to wake up to these realities.