Saturday, July 19, 2014

Putin drove Russia off the cliff

Malaysian flight MH17 was definitely shot down by a Russian missile. PM Putin will blame everyone except his Russian military and the Russians he is supporting in Ukraine.

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College says Putin messed up big time and a stench will be on Russia as long as Putin is a leader, which means as long as he lives. At The Federalist

… The moment Flight 17 exploded was the moment that Putin’s foreign policy officially went over the ledge, and with it his dreams of restored Russian greatness.

Until now, Moscow claimed it was protecting the interests of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. That was nonsense right from the start, but it was nonsense the Americans and Europeans decided they could live with, as galling as it was. (Who, after all, protects the rights of Russians in Russia? Certainly not Putin.) The West looked away as Putin seized Crimea, as we conveniently convinced ourselves that this was some odd ethnic quarrel in which we had no say. Now that a civilian airliner has been blown out of the sky by a Russian missile, however, there can be no further denial that Russia is actively pursuing a major proxy war against its neighbor in the center of Europe, and with a brutality that would make the now-departed marshals of the old Soviet high command smile with approval. This is no longer a war on Ukraine, but a war on the entire post-Cold War international order.

Putin, for his part, has already blamed Ukraine for the loss of the airliner in a careful, weird statement that makes no sense. His complaint, essentially, is that the authorities in Kyiv had the temerity to defend their country against Russia’s invasion and the daily, piecemeal dismantling of the Ukrainian state. With the exception of the usual Kremlin apologists (Professor Stephen Cohen dutifully carried this argument forward the night of the shootdown on Al Jazeera), no one is going to take that position seriously with 300 innocent people strewn all over the fields of eastern Ukraine.


… Either way, the stink of this act will now irrevocably cling to the Russian Federation for as long as Putin is in charge, no matter what his rationalizations.

The Soviet Union – Putin’s first love – likewise never escaped the stain of the downing of a Korean passenger jet in 1983. Just as the Russian separatists are doing now, the Soviets tried to prevent access to the crash area, lied about their own actions, and then blamed others. Although the West imposed some nominal sanctions, the real price was paid in public diplomacy, because the Soviets never recovered an ability to push any further propaganda about their commitment to peace after an act of such savagery.

Read the whole thing.

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