The Putin invasion. Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
KievIn more ways than one, the crisis that now grips Ukraine and Russia—as well as the rest of Europe—dates back to September 2011, when Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that Vladimir Putin would return as president in 2012. Medvedev had turned out to be, as feared, a seat-warmer who would step down after serving one term in order to pave the way for Putin to return and serve what may very well be a second set of two consecutive terms for another 12 years in office. Barring some personal or political disaster, Putin can now stay in power at least until 2024, when he will be 72 years old, putting him at roughly the same age and number of years in power as a predecessor in Moscow, Joseph Stalin.
In 2000 Prime Minister Putin became temporary head of state when President Boris Yeltsin resigned. Russian law called for a new presidential ballot in 90 days, and so a trio of writers was commissioned to produce in assembly-line style (and almost overnight) a biography designed to be the PR tool to ensure Putin’s victory.
In 2008 the Russian-American writer Masha Gessen penned an in-depth profile of Putin that included a lengthy discussion with Nataliya Gevorkyan. She was one of the three writers drafted into producing the laudatory bio, but—recalling her experience eight years later—as she delved into his background and personality, Gevorkyan found Putin increasingly less likable.
Specifically, she zeroed in on the wish Putin nurtured from a very young age to become a KGB agent. “What kind of person wants to be a KGB agent at the age of 15 or 16, when everyone else wants to be a cosmonaut?” asked Gevorkyan. “A mean, small-minded, and vengeful person” was her ultimate conclusion.
All three attributes seem to describe the mindset of Putin for the past several months, as he tried to keep Ukraine from leaving Russia’s orbit and moving onto a path towards membership in the European Union. It began with the fateful meeting in November 2013 in which then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was threatened with retaliatory measures from Moscow if he followed through with his declared plans to sign an Association Agreement with the EU—the first step towards eventual membership.
Putin’s pathological personality flaws were in full flower that day. James Sherr, a fellow at the Russian and Eurasian program at the London-based think tank Chatham House and a leading Western expert on Ukraine with very well-developed sources inside the Ukrainian government, gave the English-language Kyiv Post a description of what transpired. According to Sherr,
Putin effectively said to Yanukovych that if he signed the association agreement with the EU he (Putin) would break every bone in his body. And he showed him how he would do it. By that I mean that Putin presented him with the telling details of the work done by [Putin’s adviser] Sergey Glazyiev and others, which targeted the key sectors of Ukraine’s economy vulnerable to Russian influence, including the industrial and financial interests closest to Yanukovych himself. My understanding is that Putin spoke in direct and brutal language: in language that would normally oblige the president of an independent state to end the meeting and return home.
Yanukovych then made an abrupt about-face and declared he would not sign the EU accord. This sparked the popular revolution that three months later had him fleeing Ukraine with a thuggish coterie of his kleptocratic inner circle (along with all of the expensive furniture and household relics he could carry with him) and scurrying across the border to safe haven in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Ridding themselves of Yanukovych’s disastrous and murderous neo-Soviet regime was a victory for the people of Ukraine. But it only heightened Putin’s mean and small-minded vengefulness. So he invaded Crimea.
The inclusion of Crimea within the territory of Ukraine has long been a sore spot with Russian nationalists. This southern peninsula was ceded to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 in what has been characterized as an off-the-cuff move that no one on the Soviet Politburo spoke up to oppose. The combination of lingering Russian resentment and Putin’s desire to wreak vengeance on Ukraine for toppling the bully-boy he had picked to rule in Kiev has now prompted him to invade another sovereign nation. This has plunged Central Europe into the most dangerously destabilizing situation since Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria in 1938.
He’d be with McCain, not Obama, on Ukraine.Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson was a congressman and then senator from Washington state from 1941 until his death in 1983. Jackson was a traditional Democrat: liberal on domestic policy, strongly tied to the labor movement, and a hawk on national security matters. He was very much in the tradition of Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, with all of whom he worked closely—as he did with George Meany and Lane Kirkland at the AFL-CIO, who were also Cold War hawks.
It would send a message to Russia.4:15 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Who’s surprised that the Obama administration, evolved, urbane and forward-looking, is having a hard time dealing with Vladimir Putin’s unreconstructed Cold War mentality in Ukraine? “We’re hoping that Russia will not see this as sort of a continuation of the Cold War," John Kerry said last week. Even before the Russian invasion of Crimea, Obama was warning of the dangers of seeing the world in terms of Great Power conflict. “We’re no longer in a Cold War,” the president said at the U.N. General Assembly in September. “There’s no Great Game to be won.”
Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so.
It can—and must—be done.Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By ERIC EDELMAN
On the last day of February and first day of March, Russia’s mendacious foreign and defense ministers told their credulous U.S. counterparts that Russia had every intention of respecting Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. Of course, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is virtually the poster child for Henry Wotton’s famous definition of a diplomat as someone sent abroad to lie for his country. Russian assurances to their U.S. counterparts during the war in Georgia in 2008 were equally deceitful.
3:05 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Mobile World Congress (MWC to the cognoscenti) took place in Barcelona during the last week of February. It was a four-day exhibition of the digital world’s latest and coolest. Phones, tablets, “wearables.” All of it very cutting edge.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:32 PM, Mar 1, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor William Kristol on the situation in Ukraine.
Hosted by Michael Graham4:00 PM, Feb 24, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor William Kristol on President Obama's influence with foreign leaders and Ted Cruz's role in the GOP.
2:30 PM, Feb 8, 2014 • By ALGIS VALIUNAS
Mr. Vladimir Putin intends that the current Olympic games be forever stamped with his glory. Sochi is being protected by a “Ring of Steel.” Thus has spoken Russia’s current Man of Steel, who sees himself as the rightful descendant of the original, although Mr.
A sign of strength or of weakness?Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By CATHY YOUNG
As the winter holidays approached, the beleaguered Russian opposition had a rare occasion to celebrate: Russia’s three best-known political prisoners were unexpectedly granted their freedom. On December 20, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon whose arrest a decade ago escalated Vladimir Putin’s war on independent politics in Russia, received a presidential pardon and was flown to Germany, where his mother is undergoing cancer treatment.
12:35 PM, Dec 27, 2013 • By JONATHAN BERGNER
Russia has become the world's leading practitioner of judo diplomacy. In its simplest terms, the discipline of judo teaches its adherents to use an opponent's movement to unbalance him and throw him to the ground. Unbalanced opponent. Takedown. Victory.
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
What would Miss Manners say about Russian president Vladimir Putin? No, not about his habit of going shirtless in public. It seems that Putin has developed the habit of showing up late for important meetings, and keeping foreign dignitaries waiting. On a recent visit to South Korea, where proper etiquette is of paramount importance, the Russian leader was a half-hour late for a meeting with President Park Geun-hye.
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The media have been pretty down on Obama recently. Or rather, the media have been about as critical as they’re ever going to be. Case in point, The Scrapbook was a bit taken aback when we saw last week’s Time cover. Vladimir Putin’s visage is glowering against a stark background, and the cover line is brutal: “America’s weak and waffling. Russia’s rich and resurgent—and its leader doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”
Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By LEE SMITH
Forty years ago this fall, the United States shipped more than 20,000 tons of tanks, artillery, weapons, and supplies to Israel to ensure its victory over two of the Soviet Union’s Arab clients, Syria and Egypt. Those airlifts showed the Arabs that despite their numerical superiority, they had no hope of defeating the tiny Jewish state. As long as Israel was backed by a United States willing to prove its resolve and determination to stand by its allies, the conclusion was etched in stone—America doesn’t lose, and neither do her friends.