Putin is no Stalin, whom FDR and Harry Truman called “Good old Joe” and “Uncle Joe.” Unlike Nikita Khrushchev, he never drowned a Hungarian Revolution in blood. He did crush the Chechen secession. But what did he do there that General Sherman did not do to Atlanta when Georgia seceded from Mr. Lincoln’s Union? Putin supported the U.S. in Afghanistan, backed our nuclear deal with Iran and signed on to John Kerry’s plan have us ensure a cease fire in Syria and go hunting together for ISIS and al-Qaida terrorists. Still, Putin committed “aggression” in Ukraine, we are told. But was that really aggression, or reflexive strategic reaction?Share
We helped dump over a pro-Putin democratically elected regime in Kiev, and Putin acted to secure his Black Sea naval base by re-annexing Crimea, a peninsula that has belonged to Russia from Catherine the Great to Khrushchev. Great powers do such things. When the Castros pulled Cuba out of America’s orbit, did we not decide to keep Guantanamo, and dismiss Havana’s protests? Moscow did indeed support secessionist pro-Russia rebels in East Ukraine. But did not the U.S. launch a 78-day bombing campaign on tiny Serbia to effect a secession of its cradle province of Kosovo?
What is the great moral distinction here?
The relationship between Russia and Ukraine goes back to 500 years before Columbus. It includes an ancient common faith, a complex history, terrible suffering and horrendous injustices — like Stalin’s starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930s. Yet, before Bush II and Obama, no president thought Moscow-Kiev quarrels were any of our business. When did they become so? Russia is reportedly hacking into our political institutions. If so, it ought to stop. But have not our own CIA, National Endowment for Democracy, and NGOs meddled in Russia’s internal affairs for years?
Putin is a nationalist who looks out for Russia first. He also heads a nation twice the size of ours with an arsenal equal to our own, and no peace in Eurasia can be made without him. We have to deal with him. How does it help to call him names? (Read more.)