THE secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia is a test of one of the great promises of the 21st century.
The hope was that in an interdependent world, nations that are closely linked to one another economically and to the international order are less likely to go to war against each other. Countries that trade don't go to war, is the popular saying. There is too much at stake, and too little to gain from upsetting the global apple cart.
This hypothesis gained greater credence after the end of the Cold War, and the subsequent globalisation of trade and investment, which brought unprecedented economic benefits to many countries.
So entrenched is this thinking that it is often prescribed as a forward-looking policy option to ensure a more stable and peaceful world.
For example, many people argue that deepening the economic links between China and Japan is the best way to reduce the chances of a major conflagration between the two Asian giants, which have many festering disputes still unresolved.
Perhaps the best example is the European Union, which was conceived after the devastation of World War II to forge closer integration among the countries in Europe to lessen the risk of future wars.
Indeed, Russia itself seemed to embrace this philosophy.
That was why - many pundits believed - it spent an eye-popping US$51 billion (S$65 billion) to hold the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It was a remarkable though expensive coming-out party for President Vladimir Putin, comparable to what the 2008 Olympic Games meant for China.