After a week of saber rattling by US officials it seems the writing is on the wall. With the referendum coming in six days it looks as though Crimea will separate from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian forces are already within the country though they apparently are not wearing insignia.

Even former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly stated it was unlikely the US or EU could reverse the decision.

Former secretary of defense Robert Gates predicted Sunday that any hope of Ukraine holding on to control of Crimea is gone and that Russia will seize control of the area. “I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hands,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“You think Crimea’s gone?” asked host Chris Wallace.

“I do,” responded Gates.

Russia secured Crimea after the US/EU backed forces overthrew the Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych. Given the history of Crimea, its demographic profile of ethnic Russians, and strategic importance to the Russian fleet, its annexation – formally or informally – appears inevitable in hind sight. Russia was never going to let the opposition have Crimea.

But now we come to the next question – what about the rest of Ukraine?

While Kiev is hostile to Russian interests and Western Ukraine sees itself closer to Europe, Eastern Ukraine is dominated by Russian speakers who served as President Yanukovych’s political base. Whether they have any personal affection for Yanukovych is beside the point, they may not be interested in serving under a government dominated by those in the west of the country aligned with the US and EU. But that doesn’t mean Russia wants to continue marching. Russian President Vladimir Putin seems content with the situation as is.

So if Crimea votes for annexation and the Russian government is willing to accept the role of covertly battling with the US and EU for influence in what’s left of Ukraine rather than further military action, this may be the new map. Crimea is the price the opposition and its US/EU allies pay for taking Kiev by force.