Hmmm, Russia and Ukraine engage in a high-stakes diplomatic poker game, Russia loses and masses troops on the border between them.
Would this be a show of respect or a threat of war?
That does not seem like a very hard question, but it appears to have confounded United States and European Union leaders.
Russia claims that its troops are there for training purposes, like when the US and South Korea hold "exercises" when Pyongyang starts getting out of hand.
We don't wonder whether that's a threat; it plainly is.
And it's the same thing with Russia.
Russia makes no secret about being seriously unhappy with what has happened in Ukraine, where a pro-Moscow leader was forced out of office by pro-European Union protesters.
We don't know how far Russia is willing to go, but US and European ministers have warned Moscow not to use military force against Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
But Russia has put 150,000 troops on Ukraine's border -- at the very least, this is an attempt to pressure Ukraine's inexperienced leadership into returning to Moscow's embrace.
Has anybody thought to tell Russianwhat Western countries expect in this brinkmanship game?
Putin appears to be very practical, but who knows what he'll do if he feels threatened?
The closest parallel to this situation appears to be what happened in Georgia, another former Soviet republic that Russia invaded in 2008 to protect two predominantly ethnic Russian provinces that were seeking independence from Tbilisi.
In Ukraine, the predominantly ethnic Russian region of Crimea is unhappy and seeking closer ties with Moscow.
All the elements are there for a Russian attack, and now there are 150,000 Russian troops on the border.
What do you think is likely to happen?