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I’ll admit that I’m quick to blame everything bad in the world, including stinkbug infestations, on Barack Obama. However, I think the weak, indecisive leadership of a former community organizer was only one factor in former KGB Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s calculations when he decided to send Russian troops into Crimea.
I’ve seen a lot from pundits talking about Russia wanting to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence or its desire to protect the base of its Black Sea Fleet. In reality, it goes deeper than that. For Russians, Ukraine represents the birthplace of Russian civilization. Kiev was the capital of the old Kievan Rus a thousand years ago. Poltava is also in Ukraine. Poltava is where Peter the Great finished off what was left of a Swedish army, originally 44,000 strong, that had invaded Russia with the intent of capturing Moscow and taking Peter out. Crimea has been in Russian hands since the time of Catherine the Great when Grigoriy Potemkin conquered the Tatar Khanate, which for generations had raided Russian Ukraine to carry off captives to the slave markets in the Ottoman Empire.
For Russians, Ukraine isn’t a sphere of influence. It’s a piece of Russia that was lost when the Soviet Union collapsed and they want it back. That’s why Vladimir Vladimirovich won’t let go of Crimea no matter how much Community Organizer Obama scolds him.
People who achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the KGB, as Vladimir Vladimirovich did, needed a capacity for careful, ruthless calculation, which was displayed when he took control of Crimea. I’m sure this was a Plan B that he already had in his back pocket. Plan A, a much less risky approach, was to control Ukraine via former Ukrainian president Victor Yanokovich. When that fell apart, Vladimir Vladimirovich quickly put Plan B into motion. He had already calculated the likely reaction from Obama and the European Union and concluded that they were unlikely to do much beyond fuss at him if he could take over Crimea quickly and bloodlessly. I’m also sure he had a thorough knowledge of the number of Ukrainian troops in Crimean bases along with how they were equipped. The Russians moved in fast and with sufficient force so that Ukrainian troops were too badly outnumbered to be tempted to put up a fight.
Diplomacy isn’t going to accomplish anything because Vladimir Vladimirovich and the officials he’s surrounded himself with are too smart to be diplomatically outmaneuvered by Obama and the incompetents he’s surrounded himself with. A couple of weeks ago U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to maneuver Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov into a face-to-face meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya at a meeting over the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. This was a document in which the United States, Great Britain and Russia agreed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for Ukraine giving up Soviet nuclear weapons that were left on Ukrainian territory after the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia maintains that the current Ukrainian government is illegitimate, but a meeting between Deshchytsya and Lavrov would have undermined that claim. The Lavrov saw through Kerry’s clumsy diplomatic trick and refused to meet with Deshchytsya. He claimed he didn’t know Deshchytsya was in the building or, for that matter, who Deshchytsya is.
I actually agree with Rick Howell’s contention, in last week’s Liberal Agenda, that neither Ukraine nor Crimea are vital to our national interest. That’s why I’m rather enjoying the spectacle of Vladimir Vladimirovich thumbing his nose at Obama, ignoring His Royal Arrogance’s pedantic little lectures.
There is one problem and that’s the Budapest Memorandum. Vladimir Vladimirovich found a way to weasel out of Russia’s commitment by harboring Yanukovich and denying the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government. Now, what is Community Organizer Obama going to do?