"What?" people across the Western world are asking today. "Is Putin nuts? Has Russia gone mad?"
Well, when you've been pushed to the breaking point, you usually don't act in a rational manner. This is just as true for nations and presidents as it is for Joe Schmoe.
But I remain to be convinced that Vladimir Putin is acting irrationally. It depends on how far he takes it in Ukraine.
The United States, NATO and the European Union have pushed Putin and Russia up against the wall -- not in East Germany or Poland, but right on its own border -- twice in recent years, first in Georgia and now in Ukraine. But Ukraine is no far-flung Georgia; you can drive from Kiev to Moscow (530 miles) in a day. That's hitting close to home.
Then there's this from a remarkable piece in The Nation by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University:
But the most crucial media omission is Moscow’s reasonable conviction that the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia, which began in the 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion and continued with US-funded NGO political activities inside Russia, a US-NATO military outpost in Georgia and missile-defense installations near Russia. Whether this longstanding Washington-Brussels policy is wise or reckless, it—not Putin’s December financial offer to save Ukraine’s collapsing economy—is deceitful. The EU’s “civilizational” proposal, for example, includes “security policy” provisions, almost never reported, that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.
Any doubts about the Obama administration’s real intentions in Ukraine should have been dispelled by the recently revealed taped conversation between a top State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador in Kiev. The media predictably focused on the source of the “leak” and on Nuland’s verbal “gaffe”—“Fuck the EU.” But the essential revelation was that high-level US officials were plotting to “midwife” a new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government by ousting or neutralizing its democratically elected president—that is, a coup.
WHO ARE the imperialists here again?
Under these circumstances, if I were Putin, I'd probably invade the historically Russian regions of Ukraine, too. Certainly, I'd forcibly repatriate the Crimea, which was "given" to Ukraine by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s, when. But is it really "forcibly" if the inhabitants are happy as hell you're there?
That's what we kept pointing out when we rolled into Baghdad, after all. In Iraq, they were happy . . . until they weren't, because we were both foreigners and "infidels." In eastern Ukraine, it's not the Russians who are foreigners, it's the folks in western Ukraine.
Ukraine not only isn't our fight, hell, I don't even think we're necessarily right or that Putin is necessarily wrong. Check that. I think we're absolutely wrong for meddling in a sovereign country on the border of another nuclear-armed sovereign country that has every reason to be paranoid about our meddling.
The United States' "because freedom" act has grown old over the decades, mainly because it's always been more "because market capitalism." We've always been, globally, sort of like that fella who first gets religion and makes everybody's life miserable with all the ham-handed proselytizing, just like the old Soviets were in trying to spread their communist ideology.
MORE AND MORE, though, we look less like the sincere, overeager Bible-thumper and more like Elmer Gantry. Don't think Putin doesn't see that much more clearly than we do -- being a saint often is a hindrance in spotting hypocrites and con artists.
Or as one Russian legislator aptly put it:
But the parliamentary session roundly dismissed western criticism in advance. Senator Nikolai Ryzhkov said Russia should be prepared for the west to "unleash their dogs on us". "They ruined Yugoslavia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, all in the name of western democracy. It's not even double standards, it's political cynicism."ALLOW ME to paint the broad canvas of American hypocrisy with a historical brush: If the Russians had their own Monroe Doctrine, we'd all be soooooo H-bomb vaporized right now.
Really, it would all just be so much more honest if President Obama would call regular press conferences to threaten the Rogue Nation of the Day with annihilation if they, for whatever reason, fail to do as we say, not as we do.
Because Cuba 1898.
Because Dominican Republic 1965.
Because Grenada 1983.
Because Panama 1989.
Because Iraq 2003.
Play realpolitik if you must -- though I really wish you wouldn't play it while drinking . . . or with John McCain on your team -- just dispense with the moralistic bullshit.