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April 3, 2014

MCDONALD: Back in the U.S.S.R.

— “Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind, and Georgia girls make me scream and shout and Moldova’s on my mind mind mind mind.” (Apologies to Lennon and McCartney).

The recent cover of the Economist showed a bare-chested (when does he wear shirts) Vladimir Putin driving a Russian tank. The imagery speaks for itself. Putin with rippling muscles driving a tank and President Obama with sanctions and a secretary of state with a $400 hairdo.

President Putin is practicing an old Cold War method of “brinksmanship,” taking things right to the edge before backing off or moving in another direction. In the latest move, the Russian troops are lined up along the Ukraine border. Putin’s General in charge has assured the United States that they will not cross the border. Meanwhile, President Putin has his eyes on the country of Moldova.

President Putin is by definition a megalomaniac. He has delusions of grandeur and dreams of grand schemes. His grand scheme is a land grab for as much of Mother Russia as he can possibly retrieve. His claim is he is reuniting ethnic Russians, but this is nothing more than Realpolitik in its barest form.

Putin has no concern for people, so let’s not be fooled by political rhetoric. The countries around Russia are our allies and trading partners in the global economy. To stand by and allow this megalomaniac to acquire turf like Donald Trump acquires businesses is unconscionable and lacking in integrity.

Through our NATO Alliance, just as in Bosnia, troops and equipment should be supplied to Ukraine and to demonstrate not only strength but our commitment to our allies in the region. If this is not done, then our allied commitment is a false one. That alliance along with the backing of the United States and Great Britain must stop Putin with Crimea.

Obviously, we should take a position of a negotiated solution to the problem that plagues the region. However, without a position of strength to back it up, negotiation is only so much talk.

We will have Vladimir Putin around for many years to come. While neither the United States nor Russia are quite the powers they were during the height of the Cold War, they still are the most powerful two on the planet.

And while in Crimea they may be singing “show me round your snow peaked mountains way downs south. Take to your daddy’s farm. Let me hear your balalaika (a Russian stringed musical instrument with a characteristic triangular body and three strings) ringing out. Come and keep your comrade warm, I’m back in the U.S.S.R.”

While Vladimir Putin is not a Stalin or a Khruschev, trust is not a mainstay of a relationship with him. As President Reagan famously said, and we can apply this to the Russian movements “trust but verify.”

The Soviet is not far away and power is the rule of the day.

 — Tim McDonald can be reached at timothy.mcdonald@agsfaculty.indwes.edu

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