“When you were asked what is the biggest geo-political threat facing America, you said Russia. Not Al Qaeda. You said Russia. The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”

- President Obama speaking in a presidential debate on October 22, 2012, about opponent Mitt Romney’s assessment of worldwide geo-political threats

If this was a high stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em, Russian President Vladimir Putin just called President Obama’s bluff.

Last weekend, Russian troops rolled into the Crimean area of the Ukraine and took control. To be clear, this move was done without so much as a shot being fired, even though some reports said Ukrainian naval personnel were besieged inside of barracks and Army locations were surrendered as well. From the Ukrainian side, all of this was possible because of the vast confusion in their government due to the departure of Russian friend, deposed President Viktor Tanukovych.

There are no such excuses for how the U.S. government and the rest of the world were unprepared for the possible move given Putin’s aggressive actions and talk in the past.

But then again, maybe not. President Obama has repeatedly shown he never understood the Russian leader’s ambitions or will to resurrect the old Soviet Union. Only 18 months ago Obama mocked Mitt Romney during a presidential debate, likening Romney’s assessment of Russia as a geo-political threat to a return to 1980s Cold War thinking.

But that was not the first time the President showed a lack of understanding about Putin’s motives. In 2008, then-Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said in a blog post on the campaign trail that Senator Obama’s “indecision” about Russia’s invasion of Georgia would encourage Putin to invade the Ukraine next if he was elected. Actually, she was only echoing what Obama’s running mate, then-Sen. Joe Biden had said as well.

The Ukraine, and in particular the Crimea, has been a thorn of contention to the Russians for decades. Putin claims the soldiers were only sent in to protect Russian citizens and Ukrainians of Russian descent from persecution. While there has been no evidence presented about any ethnic or racial issues, he is correct, there are a lot of Crimean residents of Russian descent. But how did they originally get into the Ukraine? In 1944, Russian leader Joseph Stalin ordered the removal of tens of thousands of the native Tatars from the Ukraine so Russian citizens could move into the area. It is estimated as much as 45 percent of the entire Tatar race died in the deportation process.

Now the onus is on President Obama to act. It is unlikely the U.S. and its allies will attempt to remove Putin from Crimea by force, and for that, we are glad. The best NATO and western European countries can hope for now is to show enough strength to hold him in place while the real battle will begin. And the battlefield will be over money.

Because in the end, this move by Putin had a great deal to do with dollars and cents - or in this case, rubles. Russia controls nearly 20 percent of the world’s supply of natural gas and as recently as 2006 almost 80 percent of that supply made it to Europe through pipelines running in the Ukraine.

Despite what Putin has said publicly and despite the show he just put on with the Winter Olympics, the Russian economy is flailing. They need to keep the cash they were earning with gas sales flowing and with their friend Tanukovych no longer in office, they were desperately afraid anti-Russian elements within the new Ukrainian government would cut off that supply line.

And therein lies the world’s answer. Putin and Russia’s Achilles heel is their need for money. If the U.S. would change its own regulations so it could sell regular natural gas overseas and not just liquefied natural gas, they would be able to put pressure on the Russians in the European market. Norway has already passed Russia to become the leading gas supplier to western Europe so they could also attempt to grab more market share as well. In the meantime, the ruble has crashed on the world market and the Russian stock market has dipped dramatically.

We encourage the Obama administration and our country’s allies to continue this economic pressure because, in the end, it was economic factors that led to the break up of the Soviet Union in December of 1991. Perhaps President Obama should have paid a little more attention to history rather than making fun of it.