Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Putin Defiant, Annexes Crimea, Mocks the West

Vladimir Putin has taken Theodore Roosevelt's advice a step further: speak softly and beat us with a big stick.  Fortunately he has only applied that axiom metaphorically, so far.  Yet he has almost gleefully, or at least as close to glee as Putin may approach, done precisely what he has wanted to do with the crisis with Ukraine and his daring seizure of Crimea.  Over and above the historic claim that Russia has to Crimea, holding that Ukraine's possession of the peninsula was an aberration of the Soviet era, the quiet occupation has been another example of the Putin Doctrine of intervening in what the Russians call the 'near abroad' to protect the interests of ethnic Russians or Russian citizens.  Giving credit where credit is due, Hillary Clinton has it right when she compared the move to Hitler's seizure of the Czech Sudetenland in 1938.

"Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia"

The West's version of our nomenklatura does so desperately want Putin to play nice, and they have reflexively praised Putin's restraint at each step of the way in the Ukrainian crisis – 'Russian troops in Crimea?  That's just a Slavic version of some guys out for walk one night who decided to go knock over an autonomous republic.'  Kipling's Gods of the Copybook Headings must be exhausted from limping up to explain it time and time again.

And now the latest example: barely two weeks ago, The Independent (among others) reported that Putin had said that "Russia has no intention of 'annexing' Crimea."  It doesn't take a lawyer to parse that phrasing – Putin didn't feel like it at the moment.  But like Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, he could "put it by" only long enough until it was thrust upon him.

Two snippets of video show the punch line as of yesterday.  The first is an example of his rousing speech to the assembled Duma in the Kremlin, interrupted some thirty times with standing ovations and enthusiastic applause, the first when he introduced the delegation from Crimea as "citizens of Russia".  He spoke at length of the historic ties of Crimea to Russia – "In the hearts and minds of the people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia!"  Note that when he speaks of the Bolsheviks and Khrushchev adjusting the borders of Ukraine ("may God judge them"), he doesn't limit his remarks to only Crimea: "large areas of the historical South of Russia ... today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine."  He warned the West of its hypocrisy by repeating the oft-heard comparison to the seizure of Kosovo from Serbia, and that he would not tolerate NATO "next to our home or on our historic boundaries", a direct reference, if not by name, to the former Soviet occupied Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, now members of NATO, all with sizeable remnants of ethnic Russians.   He is making it clear that he is keeping his options open in regard to further expansion.  He then sat down with the Crimean delegation to sign the instruments of annexation.

As if to punctuate it, they then stepped outside the Kremlin to an assembled throng filling Red Square where Putin gave a stem-winder, complete with a Russian men's chorus and fireworks.

Throughout the day, various Russian politicians delighted in mocking the warnings of severe consequences: Vladislav Surkov, a top Putin aide, said that the only things about America in which he was interested were Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsburg, and Jackson Pollock, and he didn't have to leave Russia for them anyway.  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted to Obama, "What should [you do to] those who have neither accounts nor property abroad?  Or U didn't think about it?"  "I think some prankster prepared the draft of this Act of the US President."  Others laughed and asked to be put on the pathetically short list of the eleven (count 'em) eleven Russian high rollers (but still no one who really matters) who are subject to seizures of bank accounts and property in the West, joking as if their invitation had been lost in the mail.  The Daily Telegraph had earlier lamented that the prospective list was to only include some 18 to 21 targets, but it was reduced again to the 11 who dismissed the action as a trifling annoyance.

As if to cap off the farce, Joe Biden showed up in Poland and stumbled through his note cards about supporting the stand against the action, and falsely claiming to have ushered Poland into NATO.  This is the same Poland where the same Biden announced at the beginning of the Obama reign that we were cutting the legs out from under the agreement to station missile defense shield systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, for which the Czechs and Poles had stuck their neck out, lest we upset the Russians in our bumbling overcharge 'reset' policy.

Putin has out-maneuvered us at every turn on this.  We can only pray that this administration doesn't make it any worse.


  1. Yeah, go play more golf, Barry, and tell Joey Hairplugs to keep his fool mouth shut. Putin may go farther, indeed, than Crimea, since Russia is in demographic and economic decline and for him it's now or never. But I think these former satellites should fight their own war with him and us stay out of it as long as possible. Increasing our oil and gas exports would be smart, but economic sanctions are just stupid. It's sure not worth having a nuke exchange over a corrupt state like Ukraine.

    1. Your thoughts on the matter distill nicely. We're in no position to send in the Marines, but we can do a far better job of handing the border states of Russia more capability of dealing with the threat with our support.

      One can always cite the example of how Finland kicked the Red Army's ass in their several side-shows leading up to World War II, and Poland did a credible job in the 1920s. True, times have changed, but they can adopt some modern equivalents.


Comments are welcome and discussion is open and encouraged. I expect that there will be some occasional disagreement (heaven knows why) or welcome clarification and embellishment, and such are freely solicited.

Consider that all such comments are in the public domain and are expected to be polite, even while contentious. I will delete comments which are ad hominem, as well as those needlessly profane beyond the realm of sputtering incredulity in reaction to some inanity, unless attributed to a quote.

Links to other sources are fine so long as they further the argument or expand on the discussion. All such comments and links are the responsibility of the commenter, and the mere presence herein does not necessarily constitute my agreement.

I will also delete all comments that link to a commercial site.