Violence and chaos may not be going out of fashion in the world we live in, but unilateral military action from the old super powers almost certainly is. As of this writing the situation in Ukraine is confusing but events over the weekend are likely to mark out lines that will hold.

The first big line is that president President Viktor Yanukovych has left town and is somewhere in eastern Ukraine, having been relieved of office through a vote in Parliament, not violent overthrow. Parliament has set May 25 for elections – Yanukovych had accepted the call for new elections, but not before the end of the year. Putin’s description of events as a “coup” sound very old fashioned.

The Ukrainian people are drawing their own lines. Guards from the State Protection Service at Yanukovych’s private residence handed over key to leaders of the opposition, who are not allowing looting. The people who are opening up the gates are exposing Yanukovych’s extraordinarily plutocratic life style. Even the plutocratic class is deserting the regime, suggesting that Ukraine’s excessive corruption has become politically unsupportable.

In another move that cannot realistically be rescinded, Parliament released Yanukovych’s imprisoned rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, who immediately came to address crowds in Kiev’s Independence Square. Popular outrage over the killing of some 70 protestors, is another line that will hold against any Yanukovych restoration.

Cold war spheres of influence no longer can be summoned from history. One outcome for Ukraine is the likelihood it will be in both the Russian and western orbits. Ukraine can sign the trade agreement with the EU that Yanukovych rejected in November, adding financial support from the EU and IMF, and at the same time structure ties with Russia. What seems frankly inconceivable is that Putin would restore Yanukovych by force, with “boots on the ground.” One should remember that the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late eighties started with President Gorbachev’s refusal to use military intervention to keep embattled communist regimes in Eastern Europe in power. No “boots on the ground” this time.

The US may be a super power in terms of global weight on many scales, but post Iraq it also is being forced to turn away decisively from unilateral military action. Forging multilateral coalitions is a different matter. The UN has passed a “responsibility to protect” policy and there will be many terrible human rights crisis that will make a claim for multilateral action on those grounds. President Obama understands this new world we are moving into very well. We can hope Putin will come to understand it too.

Elizabeth Spiro Clark