Barry the Unready and Putin the Poisoner

Leaders were once named after their most (in)famous acts. In the 10th century Ethelred, king of England, was called "the Unready" after he panicked at the prospect of Viking pirates coming to raid his shores; he was forever after known as  "Ethelred the Redeless" --- the king who was bereft of counsel in the face of barbarian  attack. 

Well, here we are a thousand years later, and our vaunted leader-to-be Barry O is about as ready as Ethelred was in the year 1000 CE. Because we are still threatened by barbarians today. Check the headlines if you don't believe it.

Vladimir Putin should be known throughout the world as "Putin the Poisoner." His signature act -- the action that defined Putin's character for all the world to see -- was the radioactive poisoning of  KGB turncoat Alexander Litvinenko in London, using polonium-210.  The kicker is that you can't just buy polonium-210 at your local chemical supply store. You can only get it if you have a nuclear weapons industry, because there you need it to start a nuclear chain reaction. It's a super-tricky substance to control. Putin's assassins left their traces all over London. Chemically, Po-210 is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. But the Russians have always favored overkill.

Vladimir Putin had ordered the assassination of Russian journalists and capitalists before Litvinenko, of course. But the Litvinenko murder defined him for the world -- or at least the sane and sensible fraction of the world ---  just as Don Corleone in the Godfather ordered the decapitated horse's head to be placed in Jack Woltz' bedroom. Like the bloody horse head, Polonium poisoning signaled a public but deniable threat to Putin's enemies: Defy me, and I can use the rarest poison in the world to kill you anywhere I choose. And I will get away with it, because everybody else is cowed.

Which is exactly what happened. Putin never paid a price, and in the manner of bullies everywhere, he was emboldened when the Brits failed to respond to Litvinenko's assassination in the middle of London. That is why Putin's invasion of the small, free, and democratic Republic of Georgia was predictable. Today the Russian threat to the Ukraine is just as obvious. So the issue is not just the Republic of Georgia: It is the Ukraine, the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and even the Middle East.

So what about Barry O, vacationing back in Hawaii? How is he holding up against a future in which he might have to face Vlad the Poisoner and Russia's reversion to barbarism? To say it kindly, Barry is Unready -- redeless just like Ethelred, and already signaling weakness. According to his official advisor, Susan Rice, John McCain was just too nasty to the raging Bear. This might pass muster in the Disney World of the Left, where you just wish upon a star to make it come true, but in Putin's mafiocracy they are toasting Obama in vodka. Down the hatch, Barry!

By failing to warn Putin, Obama is inviting more aggression  -- look for it as soon as he gets elected. Jimmy Carter invited Brezhnev to invade Afghanistan, and Barry O is doing the same with the former Soviet satellites. 

The Bush Administration's much saner response is modeled after the Berlin Airlift, a time when Stalin and Truman were testing each other while teetering on the brink of a nuclear exchange. After sixty years of experience with the Russians, we have a history of relations to fall back on -- but that's only true if you know that history. Barry O has given no indication so far that he's read up on all that Cold War stuff lately. Fortunately, Bush's cabinet has a good historical memory; Condi Rice is a Soviet scholar, and Cheney was SecDef at the end of the Cold War. Nobody appears to be in denial, thank goodness. They will navigate this confrontation based on what we know about Russia and Putin. And no, George W. Bush is not as naive about Putin as conservatives sometimes fear.

Just as the Polonium assassination was designed to send a message to bully the world, the Georgia invasion used a lot of over-the-top violence -- Russia  having 146 million people, and George 4-5 million.  Putin went so far as to send in Cossack and Chechen irregulars, a deliberate throwback to the Czars. Back then, the Cossacks were no better than the Vikings; they killed, plundered and raped civilians. They were the battlefield scavengers of dead and wounded soldiers. Even the Prussian von Clausewitz was appalled and shamed by the Cossacks, who had no sense of military honor as he understood it. 
Well, Putin has sent the Cossacks and Chechens in again after the Russian army. This is a signal to Eastern Europe where people have long memories. Russia is back to barbarism.

Under its current KGB Mafia, Moscow will act purely by Machtpolitik, unrestrained by world opinion or civilized values. Meanwhile, the Germans have put themselves at the mercy of Putin by giving him a monopoly over their natural gas supplies. Russia's Gazprom even hired the last (and worst) German Chancellor, Gerhardt Schroeder, after he passed a concessionary gas agreement with Russia through the German parliament.  Europe is governed by fools or cowards, who hope to buy the friendship of the KGB Mafia in Moscow. But as soon as the Russians bare their teeth, Europe looks to the United States again for help.


So we're the world's Good Cop again. We don't have to like it, in the face of unreliable ‘allies' and treacherous foes. But who else would you trust to resist thugs like Putin the Poisoner? 


James Lewis blogs at