Putin Laid Bare

It has been a long while since Bush saw good intentions looking into the eyes of Putin. It is also [many] years since Mrs. Clinton decided to “relocate” the relations between the United States and Russia in a new plan, one that was more frank and open to dialogue. The Russian leader had become trustworthy, and to paraphrase Thatcher when she knew Gorbachev, [Gorbachev] was a person with whom you “can do business.”

Today, however, Putin is a deceiver to the majority of the Western leaders. Few will say it in public, but the consensus in private is that he is a cheat and a hypocrite. Even the politicians who, for prudence or economic interests, do not want to embitter the situation are convinced that the man of the Kremlin has given a masterly lesson in cynicism on the subject of Ukraine: many manifestations of pacifism, many calls for dialogue between rebels and government and many denials over his involvement when it is now obvious that his purpose is not only to destabilize Ukraine, but that the rebels also constantly receive huge amounts of Russian armament. To continue stating that the rebels receive their arms “in the free market” sounds like a cruel joke after the attack against the Malaysian plane.

The missiles that the insurgents operate with surprising frequency (just yesterday they took down two new Ukrainian fighter planes) are not easily found in the free market, and they must have been stolen from Ukraine or provided by Russia; their tanks are not available in the free market either, nor were they stolen from Ukraine. They are undeniably Russian. The proof is abundant.

For the West’s politicians and commentators, the Malaysian plane drama has left Putin stark naked. His objections of good faith have faded. His emphasis on his declaration from years ago that the destruction of the Soviet Union had been one of the greater political disasters of the 20th century reveals the mentality of this Russian bigwig – who uses a runaway irredentism to utilize the clumsy pretext of the obligation to defend the Russian people wherever they live in order to create problems for the countries that he wants to return to his sphere of influence. There are reminders that the Ukrainian conflict started in the moment the previous government of Kiev, which was not anti-Russia, tried to sensibly approach the European Union.

In summary, Putin has won popularity on the inside with his elated nationalism — and this is always profitable in the Russian soul — and the official media machine continues to monolithically propel the evils of the West in their eagerness to get closer to Russia (the Russian media have even come to publicize that the Malaysian plane left Amsterdam full of cadavers, and that it received express orders to enter the rebel zone to be able to accuse them). In the United States and the countries of the EU, however, Putin’s credibility is, in these moments and due to the desperation of those who wish to look away, null.

This does not mean that they are going to push down on the pedal for sanctions. Russia can continue providing T-16 tanks, batteries of missiles, cannons and everything else to the rebels. Even the Americans argue: do they have proof to show that the precision in the launching of the rebel missiles could only be obtained with direct help of experts and the intelligence service of Moscow? Europe maintains its split mentality between reacting to the dirty trick of the MH-17 plane and the state of their pockets. Many Europeans came saying that the United Stated could allow itself to propel sanctions against Russia because of its energy independence [and because] it has other sources of supplies, and the oil shale in its territory has given the country enormous energy relief.

Now, the demolition of the civilian plane has produced — and the reproaches between Europeans surge — a division between those who want a commercial action against Russia and those who ask for prudence (the reunion of the ministers of the EU the day before yesterday was anticlimactic). Those who wish to act — Great Britain, Sweden, Poland and the Baltics — show, by pointing the finger at France, for example, that it would be prudish because they have a contract to give two port helicopters to Russia with the capacity to transport some 45 of those machines, 58 military vehicles, 900 men, etc. – all for the beautiful price of 1.2 billion euros.

Hollande, defensively, has already said that the first will be delivered, but that due to the Russians’ conduct, it is necessary they reconsider the second. The French, however, counterattack. Foreign Minister Fabius declares that the English should worry about not having so many Russian oligarchs in London, [since] there are more than 100 Russian companies that make contributions to the London purse, and J.C. Cambadélis, head of the Socialist Party, attacks the British as well because they have also sold armaments of a lesser caliber to Russia. The doves of the European Union unfold the double standards of [Prime Minister] Cameron, who would be fearful of seeing London’s influence reduced to financial capital.

In summary, Putin has lost all of his purity — there are those who say with vain hope that [Russia] should not be permitted to organize the World Cup in 2018 — but the Europeans, in spite of their irritation, still try on the clothing. Although they will have to do something, Russian gas continues to play an important part.

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