The recent crisis in Ukraine has captured much of my interest lately. As someone who spent too much of his high school and college career studying Soviet government, military, politics, economy and language I have always maintained a level of interest in current Russian affairs and politics. I am going to share my observations with you whether you like it or not
1. Putin is an Imperialistic bully that also happens to be brilliant at a few things. Lets face it, nothing appeals more to the average poor working class Russian citizen then their fearless leader riding shirtless atop a tiger waving a Russian flag and giving the finger to the Americans at the same time. Putin has stoked a nationalist fervor throughout Russia strikingly similar to what happened in Germany in the 20′s and 30′s. He has established a legendary almost mythic cult of personality among the working class in Russia. A people who’s national pride was was devastated after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economy, he provides hope that Russia can return to its glory days as a wealthy super power on the World stage. He is a realist. He understands that Europe and America’s quest for globalism over the last 3 decades has completely weakened their ability to possess any type of a serious response to a challenge from another major power. They could issue actual sanctions on Russia, but it would end up hurting them more than Russia. Putin will blame the hurt of sanctions on the evil West and the people will rise and suffer for him. In the Europe, the people will rise up, protest and bring down governments because it will cost 30% more to heat their homes.
2. Russia has wanted Crimea since the Soviet Union Collapsed. Why? The Russians were humiliated into paying the Ukrainian’s exorbitant (in their minds) lease fees for Russia’s only major southern naval base. This has been a coveted property since 1991. Beyond Crimea, I believe Putin is going to attempt to rebuild the former Soviet Union one semi-autonomous republic at a time. In case you aren’t keeping score, Russia has now seized and occupied 3 regions of bordering sovereign foreign nations since 2008: South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia and Crimea in Ukraine. Over the last couple days Russia seized a town in Eastern Ukraine that controls gas distribution into Crimea. I think its entirely conceivable that in the next coming weeks that Ukraine may lose an additional 1/3 of its territory to Russia.
4. Obama is so out of his league dealing with Putin that it is embarrassing to the nation. He looks like a junior Senator from Illinois and NOT a 2nd term President. Obama’s foreign policy and state department team are an absolute disgrace. He looks so out maneuvered and out classed that it reminds me of how Jimmy Carter handled the Iran Hostage crisis. Basically, the “you better not do that or else you will get in trouble” method of statesmanship just doesn’t work when the foreign leader you are trying to bluff knows you really can’t do anything to stop him. Putin fully understands that after Iraq and Afghanistan the US public would never support military action over Ukraine against Russia. It seriously disappoints me that the toughest action Obama will take is to levy personal sanctions on 2 dozen people, most of whom will never be materially affected. I guess that is the going rate for annexing 10,000 square miles of sovereign territory these days.
5. The power of a state controlled media apparatus is monumental. When the media is owned by the state, aligned with the state or afraid of being put in prison and only reports what the government party line reads, the effect is immediate and crushing to the truth. The majority of any country’s citizens are sheep and and willingly listen to and accept the sheepdog’s commands. It doesn’t matter if the World knows you are lying, as long as your subjects believe you are telling the truth your approval rating will skyrocket. The days of Government controlled propaganda are not over, just now much more high tech and prevalent.
6. China is watching, and the significance of what has really transpired here is not going to be lost upon their leadership. I would not be surprised if in the next 3 years China doesn’t take total control over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. If the US and Europe will not do anything to challenge a moderate (for the EU) or a minor trading partner (for the US) over a military invasion, occupation and annexation of a neighboring country, what would they do to China that is the largest supplier of low cost goods to the World and owns considerable investments within most western countries? If I were Taiwan I would be very nervous.