It’s hard to imagine that American’s could have elected a more inept person to represent it on the world stage than Barack Obama. All Americans should feel embarrassed. I know I do. America’s prestige, its place as the leader of the free world, won with so much blood and treasure has, under Obama and his pathetic choices for Secretaries of State, been severely damaged. Although the American electorate could not see Barack Obama for the fool that he is, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, saw through him from day one. Obama’s “Russian Reset” was a one-sided win for Putin. Then Putin made Obama eat his “Red Line” in Syria. Now, the world is once more witness to Putin making a fool out of Obama (America) in the Ukraine. Putin plays chess. Obama plays Tiddlywinks.
Norma Brown, one of the Guest Saturday contributors here at Asylum Watch, wrote a unique piece yesterday on Mr. Putin’s press conference. Norma, as you may recall, was a career Foreign Service Officer, she is fluent in Russian, lived for some time in Moscow, and is married to a former US ambassador. She has a satellite tv and was able to watch and listen to what Putin had to say about the recent events in the Ukraine. Rather than wait until Saturday to share Norma’s unique insights, I give it to you today. The link at the end of her essay is excellent and very much worth your time to read.
Putin Takes the Stage: Great Performance
By Norma Brown
I’m watching Vladimir Putin now on Rossiya 24 (satellite tv) in a brilliant press conference of the sort Obama can only dream of giving. The Russian leader is speaking spontaneously (the way Marco Rubio can) from the heart and he is speaking directly to the heart of every Russian in the world. This is that long-awaited NATO-Russia moment and Putin is quietly furious. There is no other word for it. He is quite proper with the press. He appears to be calm and at ease and friendly. His arguments are multi-faceted and factual but emotional, too. The putsch in Kiev he calls a “coup” and then explains why it is legally an armed and anti-constitutional overthrow of a legal government. He says every single post-Soviet Ukrainian government has left the poor and disenfranchised Ukrainians as bad off as ever, and he names the culprits, the ex- and current presidents of Ukraine. He admits that Russia has vital interests in Ukraine for many, many reasons. I look at the faces of the press, pounding away on computers, their faces stern and unhappy. Some may disapprove of what Putin has done; I’d bet most agree and are glad that he went to the aid of the Russians under threat in Ukraine. I bet many are mortally offended by the in-your-face Russophobes now in charge in some of Ukraine’s most powerful ministries. And despite twenty years of post-Soviet history, I’d also bet many are absolutely convinced that NATO means ill for Russia and this was provoked by certain sectors of the West.
Putin is a man in charge of every pertinent fact, familiar with the history, and sure that he is expressing Russia’s heart and soul and still adhering to the letter of the law. Putin pointed out that the origin of the current problems was Yanukovych’s decision (a legal decision fully within the Ukrainian President’s powers, says Putin) to put off — not even deep-six — the association agreement with the EU (as opposed to one with Russia) because, as Yanukovych told Putin, there was stuff in that EU agreement that was worrisome for Ukraine. They wanted to control Ukraine’s bilateral agreements with Russia. Ukraine is highly dependent on Russian trade. In the end the EU threatened Yanukovych to sign or lose, and he decided to go with Russia. At that point, persons primed to stir up public disorder began to take actions for an armed takeover of the legal Ukrainian government. Putin agreed that the people of Ukraine wanted a change from the Yanukovych government, but pointed out that the Constitution of Ukraine has only three methods for the departure of the president: voluntary resignation, death, or impeachment. None of those were pertinent. An agreement with the opposition had been reached with the signature of Yanukovych, who gave in almost one hundred percent to the demands of the mobs and to the demands of the EU and Washington. He ordered the removal of all troops from Kiev. At which point the mob took over, ousted the elected government and declared themselves the legitimate government of all Ukraine. It was all planned.
Here’s another good moment: one of the reporters asked if he personally had tried to contact the current authorities in Kiev. Putin just smiled and said there was no one at his level to talk to in Kiev as the legitimate president of Ukraine was in Russia; so the contacts were at the governmental level and aimed at the ensurance of normal economic and other relations with Russia in this period. Quite right, too. We reject the legitimacy of the thugs in Kiev, but we have to protect the interests of both countries, too.
This is another good moment. It seems a pro-Ukrainian reporter was acting unbecomingly and too aggressively. Putin answered his question but then suddenly we went to another screen and the anchor of Rossiya 24 . I love it. I think now they are hustling him out of the audience as a potential assassin, much as we would do in our own presidential press conferences when someone gets out of line. (We try not to let the trouble-makers in the first place.) As someone who was once hustled out of a genuine human rights trial in Leningrad in 1984 (yes!), I can say it gives you something to talk about for years. The anchor is followed quickly by a man who is obviously known to Russians who is almost crying with anger over the insults hurled at Russia by the fascist western Ukrainians and their (understood) fascist sponsors.
This is my view: Putin is claiming legal and historical and material and substantive reasons for going into Crimea. No matter the political calculations, no matter the words of disapproval, he knows the law is actually on his side. Furthermore, he has now made it quite clear that Russia is ready to rumble, as our hopeless Secretary of State once boasted of himself. He is loathe to the use of force, but if that is what it takes to defend Russian vital interests, so be it. As for those economic sanctions, he warned that the end will not be good for those pushing this action. I’m sure he has energy in mind. Europe is vulnerable and Ukraine was a vital oil conduit. From their perspective, if they only owned Ukraine!! If they undertake sanctions, who is likely to give first: the freezing western Europeans in 1914 or the overly-warm Russians taking one for the Gipper (Holy Mother Russia). Remember that the Germans surrounded and starved Russians in WW2 Leningrad and Russia still won the war. We living the high life in the West don’t realize that most Russians still living remember what life used to be like. They can tighten the belt again if NATO wants to rattle its currently small-looking saber. It looked a hell of a lot bigger in Libya.
The current state of play on the chessboard is this: Russia has obviously responded to some back-scenes offer, perhaps brokered by Merkel, to allow a return to the Ukrainian internal agreement that was jettisoned and restore the previous government until the agreed date of early elections. It is clear he will not obstruct any investigation or prosecution of Yanukovych in accordance with the pre-coup law. As a token of good faith, has ordered all those troops on maneuver to go back to the barracks. He has played his move. Up to West. Will the Russian troops stay in their barracks or be deployed in eastern Ukraine, as well? (Hint: Russia isn’t ever going to give up Crimea.)
Next move: West becomes pissy. Tries being provocative as a proof of NATO manhood. Maybe (shudder) they will draw a line in the sand.
Next move: Eastern Ukraine.
And by the way, here is a great link to an interview with Dmitri Simes, a Russian Jew and a brilliant analyst of his homeland.