Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putin makes a fool of the West again

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues to make a fool out of the West. Is anyone familiar with the old saying “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”? Obviously Putin knows that the West has no shame. First he invaded Georgia in the Caucasus region, supposedly in support of a breakaway “republic.” He dared the U.S. and the West to do something about it; a lot of hot air came Putin’s way, and little else. He reportedly told representatives of the Georgian government that they could only “trust” him, not the West—meaning, of course that they could “count” on him interfering with their internal affairs, and they could “trust” that no help from the West could possibly stop him. 

The intervention in Georgia turned out to be a dress rehearsal for bigger schemes. Putin and his military chaffed at losing its principle “warm water” naval base, the Sevastopol complex in the Crimea, which is part of Ukrainian territory. How to retrieve and hold on to it? By stirring-up the Russian majority in eastern Ukraine against the legal government.  The eastern provinces would take time to sufficiently foment rebellion by Russian agents and military “advisors,” but the Crimea was attached by only a small strip of land to the mainland, and could be easily detached from Ukrainian control with a sufficient show of force against the weakly-armed national force by secretly-inserted Russian military. 

What was the West going to do? Send in NATO aircraft and bomb separatist positions? Russia is not Iraq or Libya, who had no forces capable of providing a credible deterrent. The European Union—particularly Germany—feared losing oil and natural gas shipments from Russia, and chose the rather pathetic “option” of discomfiting rich oligarchs close to Putin in the “hope” that they would put pressure on him; but something tells me that he is probably paying them off to offset the owie. The UN as usual is a lot of talk and little else, and with Russia and its “new” ally, China, with veto power on the Security Council, there seems little that it can do. The U.S. is of course capable of more concerted  punishment, but even Republicans seem incapable of doing more than attacking Obama’s response, which to be honest seems to be little more than a lot of expressive outrage and pinpricks.

When Dictator Putin finally got around to eastern Ukraine, he likely knew that nothing was going stop him. Bald-faced lies about direct Russian intervention have been told and retold with impunity. Nobody believes them, but then again, the former KGB and FSB agent can’t help but tell lies and disseminate misinformation; that was, after all, part of his training. Russians might believe it, but even pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine can’t help but brag about all the of the direct Russian assistance in troops and equipment they are receiving. 

The lies even encompass the outrage that was the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian airliner by Russian separatists with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile. The separatists have been bragging about shooting down Ukrainian aircraft, and soon after the shooting down of the airliner they could be heard boasting about shooting down a “large” plane—apparently the Malaysian aircraft. Hundreds were killed, and Putin appeared to believe that merely calling Obama about the tragedy would “absolve” him of blame. Again, nobody is being fooled; the problem is that no one is shamed enough by previous inaction to actually do something about it.

After Ukrainian forces made some slight headway against the separatists, Putin’s impatience was such that he decided he couldn’t wait any longer, and has sent in columns of Russian tanks and troops to conquer a corridor from Rostov to the Crimea. Again, Putin is lying when he claims that there is no Russian troop movement, or the fact that there are 20,000 Russian troops are massed on the eastern Ukrainian border—even though it is obvious that the Ukrainian military is no threat to Russia. And again, the West seems helpless to stop him. As far as the European Union is concerned, it is a Russian “concern” and none of theirs—while they continue to lose all credibility in the eyes of those under threat of Russian imperialism. Meanwhile, Russia’s oil and gas deal with China has shown that Putin has an “eastern” rather than a Western mindset, meaning anti-democratic authority and control. 

Putin is arrogant enough to believe he has “fooled” the world time and time again. Nobody has been fooled, but what does that mean? The West has “fooled” itself by believing that a few insignificant “sanctions” would change Putin’s behavior, but Russia’s oil revenues have cushioned all evidence of any discomfit, even among his rich allies. The relative impotence of the West in the face of blatant Russian intervention into supposedly independent former Soviet “republics” has made it the “shameful” party in this ship of fools.

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