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Putin: the Dog Who Caught the Car

March 4, 2014

You know the old saying. Now the successor to such august personages as Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev actually caught what he apparently was chasing — but what to do with it? V. Putin’s most recent remarks, nicely encapsulated here: — show he has fallen victim to his tyrannical lineage and perhaps his own grandiose ideas of bringing Russia back to top billing on the world stage. The address he made is an embarrassment to himself and, indirectly, his own people. There is no principle of international law which allows his support of an armed seizure of territory and facilities in Ukraine. Notice he made no comparison to the 2008 invasion of Georgia territory. He can’t. No ethnic Russian-Ukrainians have been threatened or harmed by the interim Ukrainian government nor by roving bands of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. So even that flimsy pretext was out of his reach this time. Indeed, it had been remarkably peaceful in Ukraine after her leader fled in disgrace.

Stalin was a brutal dictator who viewed Ukrainians as a subtle threat to his rule. Ukraine’s identity was as old as Russia’s and over the centuries its people developed a distinctive, albeit similar, culture. At the same time, Ukrainians inhabited strategic territory. Its history is largely one of the various surrounding powers fighting and staking claims to portions of what is now modern day Ukraine. In the 17th Century, the most powerful of Ukraine’s rulers sought the protection of the Russian Tsar and pledged loyalty to him. The two countries’ lives have been closely intertwined ever since. In the Soviet era, Stalin needed a device to stop any possible independence aspirations of Ukrainians. He decided to include numerous ethnic Russians into the official territory of the then Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic. Students of the region have dubbed this Stalin’s “poison pill.” Thus should the Soviet leader or his successors have reason to fear a rising Ukrainian nationalist movement not only could the ethnic Russians oppose such a movement but the Soviet Union (or later Mother Russia) could claim a right to assist those Russians.

The German Chancellor said Putin was out of touch with reality. But isn’t this the case with any autocrat who sees the world as either his to play with or with assassins around every corner? The twin desires of showing power and staying in power drove President Putin to this most unfortunate precipice. Who knows what he will do now? Even his own advisors aren’t sure what the game plan is. What we do know is that the heart beating in this man is not that of a man but that of a dog.

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