March 3, 2014
Over the last few days, I’ve seen many reports to the effect that Putin is “calling the tune” in Ukraine and that he has the West on the “back foot”, and that he is “ahead of the game”.
I look at it from a long-term perspective and I see that it is Putin who is on the “back foot”.
Just look at the list of countries which, 13 years ago, were members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, but are now members of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, whose 28 countries “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”:
And just look at the ex-Warsaw Pact members who are members or applying members of the EU:
Then look at the vast land mass of Ukraine. And the fact that overtures have been made for it to join NATO and the EU.
It’s not the West that’s on the back foot here, it is Putin, desperate to save some foothold and the Black Sea port base of Sevastopol. He’s like a cornered rat. He’s on the wrong side of history. He’s behaving like an unspeakable bully, cynically invading Ukraine in the gap between the Winter Olympics and the Winter Paralympics (when any hostilities, and chance for Ukraine to respond militarily, will be kiboshed by the Olympic truce). But it’s not going to work in the long run.
My outrage at this bullying (the latest example of which is the disgraceful ultimatum given to Ukraine forces in Crimea) is tempered by reasonable confidence that Putin is behaving in the most incredibly short-sighted way. He will do the reputation of Russia much more damage than it is worth to hold on to the peninsula of Crimea.
However, I fear that, sooner or later, someone is going to have to stand up to this bully.
I’m reminded of the words of Theodore Roosevelt, quoting an old African proverb:
Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far.