Putin and Godfather II
At the Olympics opener, there was Vladimir Putin, looking every inch the stolid Michael Corleone in the baptism scene from Godfather II. Putin was waiting impassively for those big snowflakes to turn into Olympic rings while plans were hatching in the Ukraine to commit murder.
The Corleone baptism went better than the snowflakes spectacular, though. The snowflakes malfunction was worthy of the Soviet era. One snowflake failed to transform -- except on Russian TV, which, per London's Telegraph, opens magically as Putin watches coolly. Fakery has always been a Russian specialty; brutality another.
Meanwhile, to the northwest of Sochi in the Ukraine, Putin's lackey, Viktor Yanukovych, a faux Ukrainian and the nation's president, was facing mounting opposition from countrymen who didn't want their nation dragged back under Russia's thumb. Clashes between protestors and Yanukovych's thugs began slowly and then escalated into violence. Protestors have been killed and injured by the score. Putin's hand was behind the violence, as Ukrainian "security forces" moved in to wipeout the opposition.
As of this writing, Yanukovych has fled Kiev, taking up residence in Kharkhiv, nearer Russia. Others in parliament, including the speaker, Volodymyr Rybak, have resigned. The opposition -- under Yulia Timoshenko, who was just freed from jail -- has taken control in Kiev. Yanukovych had agreed to earlier presidential elections, but now the opposition is pushing for an even earlier date (better to get rid of Yanukovych sooner).
As reported via Drudge, an independent, democratic Ukraine poses a real challenge to Putin's effort to reconstitute a Russian Empire -- at least one that maintains spheres of influence.
Our lead-from-behind president, Barack Obama, has made statements for "peace and stability" in the Ukraine. Per USA Today, this vapid comment from the president's metrosexual spokesperson, Jay Carney:
"The fact of the matter is, it is in Russia's interest for the violence to end in Ukraine as it is in the interest of the United States and our European friends," Carney told reporters Friday. "We welcome the cessation of violence, and we welcome the agreements that have been reached."
"Peace" of what? Of Ukrainians knuckling under to the jackbooted Yanukovych government? Or the peace of the grave? Millions of Ukrainians ended up in graves thanks to Russian bullets and pogroms featuring mass starvation. "Stability" to what end? Ukrainians aren't fighting the government for stability; they've sought to destabilize the government to get fundamental change that pries Putin's hooks off the country.
More galling was this more recent report from the Washington Times:
"The unshakeable principle guiding events must be that the people of Ukraine determine their own future," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "Going forward, we will work with our allies, with Russia, and with appropriate European and international organizations to support a strong, prosperous, unified, and democratic Ukraine." [Italics added]
Question: "Is Mr. Obama naive, a useful idiot, negligent in his duties, or a fellow traveler?" Working with the Russians on the Ukraine's future is as if FDR said he'd have cooperated with the Nazis about Austria's future or the Sudetenland's.
The USA Today article concerns Mr. Obama's hour-long conversation with Putin about the Ukraine and Syria. Why did the president need the better part of an hour to issue a blunt ultimatum to Putin, to wit:
"We support the Ukrainian opposition in its ouster of a government that serves your interests, Vlad. No, don't interrupt, Vlad. We're lending public and material support to the opposition's cause. Rest assured, we and our allies will impose financial and economic sanctions aimed not at the Ukraine but Russia if this crisis persists... if you don't butt out. Moreover, after consultations, the U.S. and its NATO allies have agreed to extend NATO membership to the Ukraine once a truly independent, democratic government is established. NATO should have done so years ago. These are nonnegotiable points, Vlad. Do svidaniya."
Instead, Mr. Obama, who appears intimidated by Putin, serves up Western leftist pabulum about, by golly, getting along and working out differences, as if a few therapy sessions will cure what ails in the Ukraine.
Whatever his current setbacks, Putin's not done with the Ukraine, not unless the U.S. and NATO are willing to shove back -- and hard. The Ukraine is too important to Putin strategically and economically to let it go without a fight -- covertly for the time being. But, maybe overtly if Mr. Obama doesn't find a spine.
The Ukraine should be important to the U.S. and Western Europe for many reasons, but enlisting it as a valuable ally in containing Russia tops the list. Russia needs to be prevented from achieving its expansionist aims.
Putin, whom Russian journalist Masha Gessen has correctly fingered as "the godfather of a mafia clan," wants to gain back as much lost territory as is possible after the glorious seventy-plus year Russian Revolution collapsed in the early nineties. Russian imperialism was hidden and excused by communist doctrine from Lenin through Gorbachev. There's no doctrine there anymore to pretend with. What's left in Russia is hoary nationalism wedded to another sham: Putin-rigged rule-of-law and democracy, rigged for Putin's benefits and his cronies.
Underneath his Corleone businessman shtick, Putin's a cold-blooded authoritarian trying to resurrect a dilapidated Russia. He wants a new Russian Empire. Putin has cynically glommed onto the Russian Orthodox Church, which was greatly persecuted during Soviet times. He's done so to give credibility, in part, for his rule.
Dictators, like Putin and the late, left-lamented Hugo Chavez (per Breitbart, Oliver Stone is developing a puffy biopic of Chavez's life), need more than movie star good looks and suave personalities to justify their ruthlessness, cupidity, and corruption. So they flimflam with "compassion, fairness, and justice," pretend that law matters, and hold farce elections.
Putin might still sell his charade to those among the Western left -- the gullible and not-so-gullible -- who are forever anxious to believe that a dictator with the right words and venom for the U.S. is okay. Among the left, Putin's Ukrainian intrigue isn't so much the problem; it's his bad manners in averring that "gayness" isn't really welcome in Russia.
Gayness, not Putin's self-hyped Slav masculinity, is the vogue in trendy progressive circles, of course, so Putin has soured those in the West who might otherwise serve as able apologists for his Mafioso ways. Putin might want to build a cute gay Potemkin Village, replete with same-sex restrooms and wedding chapels, and showcase clinics that conduct sex-change operations (just to roll-in the chic transgender angle). With this little ruse, Putin could win the hearts and minds of fashionable lefties across the debauched Western world.
For decades, the West's progressives shilled for Lenin, Stalin, and the venal Soviet Union, right up to its demise. Putin isn't a stretch for the left if he fakes the gay stuff a bit. But even a sly old KGB strongarm like Putin might have his limits. And Russians never lost their sense of having a masculine culture. Putin doesn't want to mess too much with his peeps.
The struggle in the Ukraine is no laughing matter. Once again, Ukrainian soil is soaked with patriots' blood thanks to Russian instigation. Godfather Vladimir Putin is the culprit. President Obama's foreign policy throughout his tenure has done harm to U.S. national security interests. Mr. Obama's blasé approach, failure to powerfully denounce Putin for his meddling in Ukrainian affairs, and his failure to act to thwart Putin -- in fact, to instead cooperate with him -- allows Putin to calculate that delay isn't defeat.
Russians possess an Asiatic sense of time and the patience to abide setbacks. By not dealing firmly now with Putin's stealthy aggressiveness in the Ukraine, the president merely forestalls trouble. And as 20th Century history should have taught the well-educated Mr. Obama, trouble forestalled can be plenty worse.