Vladimir the Gatherer: Putin’s Move on Ukraine

Ukraine with the bearReading an old Economist (November 7th-13th 2009) I came across this statement: “To Russia’s once and possible future president, Vladimir Putin, the collapse of the Soviet Union – two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall – was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 2oth century.”

I suggest that anyone but the most obtuse must understand he is striving mightily to undo that catastrophe. Having been in power for 15 years it seems the time in right to attempt to regather all the old nations of the Soviet Union back under the mother Russia’s umbrella. His target now is the Ukraine.

Because Obama seems to be directionless when it comes to Russia, we can read things like this in Russia’s Pravda English edition: “. . . Russia and personally Russian President prevented the U.S. invasion to Syria after which the world media announced the victory of the “tough guy Putin over Obama who does not keep his promises,” and some Europeans and Americans frankly stated that they would like someone like Putin to be their president?” Nothing is written in the Russian media without Putin’s approval and if this is how he thinks he is seriously delusional.  This is clearly something that we don’t want in a guy with all those nuclear weapons.

Here’s a look at the way that Putin came to power and stayed there. Note a common theme is the murdering of journalists or those in the opposition. The author of the article notes: “As Russian (and Eastern European) history well demonstrates, it isn’t always necessary to kill millions of people to frighten all the others: A few choice assassinations, in the right time and place, usually suffice. Since the arrest of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003, no other Russian oligarchs have attempted even to sound politically independent. After the assassination of Politkovskaya on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine many Russian journalists following in her footsteps to Grozny either.” 

Last week in Moscow Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych met  with Putin. Aside from getting a Russian loan, Putin probably gave him a little advice on how to handle the problem of the people demonstrating. Putin told him to hold off on the real rough stuff for now. He would have told him: “Do what I did. Scare them.”

On Christmas Tetiana Chornovol, was set upon by thugs who crashed into her car and severely beat her. She ended up in the hospital. In the eastern city of Kharkiv, Dmitry Pilipets, a civic activist and organizer of protests was stabbed four times on the street by two unknown male attackers late Tuesday night. Other incidents of violence have happened. This is Putin’s long established method of suppressing open dissent: frighten the opposition into silence.

As we move into 2014 in Ukraine we will see that it is unlikely there will be a massive crackdown on the people protesting. More likely the initial steps of the Putin Method will take place. Protesters will be rounded up one by one; some will be beaten, others murdered and some may disappear.

The Putin Method worked well in Russia keeping him in power these many years with an approval rating that runs over 60% and up into the 70s. He manages this by always telling the Russian people that the people who protest his regime are controlled by outside powers or foreign ideas that are a threat to Russia. Aided by the Russian Orthodox Patrirch of Moscow, Kirill I of Moscow the xenophobia works well. The Russians willingly give up their freedoms for Putin’s protection from strange people and foreign ideas.

Putin would have pushed for a more brutal crackdown except that he can’t urge such a bold move until after the Sochi Olympics. That’s why he’s settled on the single person intimidation program. After the Olympics the gloves will come off as long as he perceives Obama as afraid to act boldly.

The problem with using the Putin Method in Ukraine is that one of the outside powers threatening Ukraine is Russia. Killing journalists and leaders of the protest movement in Ukraine is apt to be highly counter productive; but Putin being an old dog only knows that one trick. To date those standing in EuroMaiden Square have proven themselves extremely courageous. They may not be as easily intimidated as the Russians. Yet they do need to know a strong America is supporting them; that’s what makes Obama’s continuing silence strangely sad.

 

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