If the Crimean people had been happy living under the Ukrainian flag this referendum would have gone no place. That too is understandable since so many of them are ethnic Russians. What they don't understand and I'm not the one to explain why, is that they are likely to be worse off returning to Russian control than they are now with a struggling Ukrainian government.
I also read where Quebec is making noises about independence from Canada again. This is a constant for them and one day the Canadians may well tell them to take their independence and be done with it, beating them to the punch and thus being the ones to set the terms. In the long run Quebec will be the losers because Canada holds the strong hand.
Venice is considering a referendum to separate themselves from Italy. How many American states have recently made noises about seceding? It speaks to unrest with all their respective governments.
Only the U.S. has succeeded in melding it's ethnic groups into a homogeneous whole. It lasted for decades. People were Americans first. They learned how to speak English. They worked hard and built what is now the fast disappearing American dream. Yet now we divide ourselves and winnow out the ethnic groups for special favors. The Hispanics. The Blacks. The Middle Easterners. The Asians. They all have their enclaves around the country where they are more their former selves than the Americans they came here to become and we pander to them. We print signs in a multiplicity of languages. We teach English as a second language. We deport or not depending on the need be it workers or a voting block. This isn't the United States of America - the great melting pot. This is a back to the future look at all the ingredients that went into that pot before the fire was lit.
Somewhere along the line, the fire went out and we have great clumps that don't blend. What happens if Canada should want Alaska or the route of the Keystone Pipeline instead of dealing with our feckless government? What happens if Mexico wants Texas and New Mexico and Arizona? What if China wants all the ports in California? No one in their right mind would want the rest of the state.
Could the people in those areas become disillusioned enough with our government to referend themselves out from under U.S. control? With or without foreign troops massing on our borders?
Never say never. Putin is the head of a failing state with a failing economy and an army weaker than our own yet he plunges ahead. Don't bet that it couldn't happen here. People don't always understand the future implications of their actions but they sure do understand what drives them to take them.