Every time I hear President Obama say something “will not be tolerated,” I’m reminded of Vizzini’s “inconceivable!”

The silly sanctions we’re placing on Russian officials will have approximately the same effect as the Bush administration’s pointless sanctions on North Korea back in 2006; banning the export of iPods, Segway scooters, and other luxury items so that Kim Jong-Il wouldn’t be able to give trinkets to his cronies.

But the administration has to bluster and posture and appear to be “doing something about the problem” even though the president and anybody with more brains than your average mailbox knows that we are completely powerless: Russia will do what Putin wants, openly and without fear of reprisal.

Why do I think we’re powerless? First, military confrontation is out of the question. Russia isn’t a little country with an insignificant military that we can overpower with a division or two of National Guard troops. Air strikes, even if we were stupid enough to try and could get past the Russian defenses, would be met with major reprisals and ultimately result in a real war that nobody wants and if fought would destroy the world economy.

Not that we could make any kind of military strike. President Obama isn’t dumb enough to try convincing us that Ukraine is worth another foreign excursion, and no member of Congress who is up for re-election this year is likely to approve such a thing even if the president were to suggest it.

Second, serious economic sanctions are out of the question because large parts of Europe depend on Russian natural gas for heat. Nobody in Europe wants to risk upsetting Putin, because he could easily turn off the spigot. The first cold snap come Fall would have every citizen in Europe demanding that The Powers That Be let Russia have whatever they want, so long as the gas is turned back on. Putin isn’t beyond punishing our European allies in response to American “provocation.”

It does make for good theater, though. Too bad we can’t bottle all the hot air from both sides. Between Obama’s rhetoric, Putin’s laughable denials, and Republicans’ excoriating the president for his lack of action, we could make a serious start to reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned to keep warm next Winter.