Friday, December 19, 2014
Putin Sharpens Sabers; Heralds New Jihad
In the final analysis, Vladimir Putin again demonstrated his undying commitment to actively defend Russia, rebuild its military and political strength, and restore the holy Russian empire even if it means a Russian jihad.
In a three-hour press conference (almost 24,000-word transcript) yesterday that served as a stage for his soliloquy about the past, present and future of Russia, defiant and assertive Putin warned countries near and far that he will not tolerate any military, physical, economic, literal or cyber encroachment against Russia. With deception and outright lies that Russian reporters in attendance were expected to swallow, Putin pressed his case that Russia has been encircled by enemies since the fall of the Berlin Wall that have been ceaselessly trying to vanquish Russia. Invoking typical Russian chest-beating chauvinism, he brazenly declared that he will not allow any country to declaw what he called the Russian bear.
Putin conveyed this and similar thoughts in the same evenhanded tone that he used in the summer of 2013 to warn Ukrainians that their efforts to join the European Union would lead to a catastrophe.
His most ludicrous explanations about current events surfaced when he spoke about Ukraine. It should be recalled that in February 2014, one week after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia invaded Ukraine – first Crimea and then the southeastern corner of the country.
Putin sees the evolution of these events differently. Indeed, he admits there is a battle in Ukraine but it is a “punitive operation.” An operation that Russia did not initiate and in his mind it did not invade Ukraine. The punitive operation was launched by Kyiv against the population of southeastern Ukraine – meaning Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
“Russian public opinion holds that what is now happening in southeast Ukraine is actually a punitive operation, but it is conducted by the Kyiv authorities and not the other way around. The self-defense fighters of the southeast were not the ones who sent troops to Kyiv. On the contrary, the Kyiv authorities amassed their military forces in the southeast of Ukraine, and are using multiple rocket launchers, artillery and fighter jets,” Putin fabricated in the course of his response to a question posed by Roman Tsymbalyuk of the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.
The Russian public could consider the war in Ukraine as a punitive operation because of the sparse amount of true information that is available to them. They may glean something from the Internet, they may hear mothers’ bereaved laments about their KIA sons or they listen to Putin and Lavrov’s propaganda.
Putin’s masterful lying flew in the face of accumulated data that testifies that Russian mercenaries, sent from Russia and Chechnya, seized southeastern Ukraine after successfully invading and annexing Crimea. Afterward they were reinforced by Russian regular troops, tanks and artillery.
Putin’s fairy tale about what sparked this punitive action stems from his denunciation of the EuroMaidan revolution, which he calls a coup. I’ll give him that much. Evicting, ousting, expelling, or just getting rid of his lackey Yanukovych was a coup. His sudden and longed-for departure set Ukraine on a better course toward stability.
After Yanukovych wisely fled Ukraine, Putin said the new government’s leaders did not take into account southeastern Ukrainians’ disagreement with Yanukovych’s departure and the country’s new course. If anyone disagreed with it, it was the few Russian-inspired rabble rousers that ignited a full-scaled bloody Russian war vs. Ukraine for all the world to see. There was never any noticeable discontent in eastern Ukraine. As I’ve written in the past, Russian-speaking Ukrainians gave their lives during the EuroMaidan revolution and today are revered for being martyrs of the Heavenly Hundred.
“Instead of at least trying to engage in dialogue with them, Kyiv started by sending law enforcers, the police force, but when that didn’t work out, they sent in the army, and since that didn’t work out either, they are now trying to settle the issue by using other forceful methods, the economic blockade,” Putin said.
Actually, the so-called men in green without insignia who landed on Crimea and seized the Ukrainian peninsula soon began appearing in southeastern Ukraine ahead of mass infiltration by Russian soldiers and tanks from Russia. Some news sources reported recently that they’ve been seen in Belarus.
Putin said in the so-called press conference that a military solution will not bring peace to the region. He calls for dialogue but as with all previous instances of dialogue with Russia, they terminated with Russian subjugation. Even discussions about ceasefires have ended with Russian violations.
Probably in Putin’s view Tsymbalyuk had the obnoxious temerity and integrity to pointedly ask the Russian despot: “It’s an open secret that it is Russian servicemen and Russian militants who are fighting there. Question: How many Russian servicemen and units of equipment have you sent there, and how many of them have been killed in Ukraine? What would you as the Commander-in-Chief say to the families of the Russian servicemen and officers killed there?”
Putin’s closest response was to say “all those who are following their heart and are fulfilling their duty by voluntarily taking part in hostilities, including in southeast Ukraine, are not mercenaries, since they are not paid for what they do.” Someone armed this rabble with automatic weapons, APCs, tanks and surface to air missiles like the one that brought down the ill-fated Malaysian airliner killing some 300 innocent men, women and children.
Tsymbalyuk also asked about the fate of Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who was clandestinely kidnapped by Russians and imprisoned in Russia, as well as other prisoners of war.
Putin preposterously replied that Savchenko is being held on charges of calling in an air strike that killed Russian journalists. She is a soldier in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and therefore a prisoner of war. Despite numerous photographs showing Russian journalists with their press insignia clearly visible on their apparel shooting at Ukrainians, Putin denied this has ever happened, saying “You can see in this audience the colleagues of our journalists – they are also your colleagues – who have died in the line of duty in southeast Ukraine. I want to stress that they did not take part in fighting for any of the sides, and they were unarmed.”
Putin then explained: “According to our law enforcement agencies, Ms. Savchenko called in artillery fire via radio. If it is reliably established during the pretrial investigation and the subsequent trial that she was not involved and is not guilty, she will be released immediately. But if they prove that she was indeed involved in the journalists’ murder, a Russian court will issue a proper ruling, as I see it, and she will serve her sentence in accordance with the verdict. However, no one has the right to hold anyone guilty of a crime on account. I mean that Russian legislation includes the presumption of innocence. So we’ll see how the pretrial investigation proceeds, and what conclusions the Russian court will make.”
In the last parliamentary elections in Ukraine, Savchenko was elected to the Verkhovna Rada from the Batkivshchya Party. Today, Lt. Nadiya Savchenko can expect to be hauled into a new Russian kangaroo courtroom and be tried on one or another trumped up accusation and convicted just to satisfy Putin’s goals and minions. That’s presumption of innocence Russian style.
As for the other Ukrainian prisoners of war, including film director Oleh Sentsov and at least 30 others, Putin said they are being held on suspicion of terrorist activity. Is this what all ethnic Ukrainians in Russia can expect? All of them will be dubbed terrorists, arrested, tried, jailed and incarcerated according to a new criminal code that criminalizes ethnic agitation.
The onetime KGB officer’s explicit clarification about Russia’s defensive posture and warnings not to tread on it emerged during this answer to a Russian reporter’s question about Crimea. The questioner asked if Russia’s annexation of Crimea led to the country’s economic problems but Putin explained the seizure of Ukrainian territory from another angle. Paraphrasing Hitler’s policy of lebensraum, Putin said Russia needed to do that to protect itself. Using the bear as a recognizable symbol of Russia, he elaborated: “You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be! Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.”
Rhetorically questioning if it was justified for America to seize Texas from Mexico in the mid-19th century, Putin said the west does not allow Russia to do the same, noting: “And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all. So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. That is what we should all realize”.
Putin did not overlook NATO’s role in Russia problems. He said, “Didn't they tell us after the collapse of the Berlin Wall that NATO would not expand eastwards? But it happened immediately. Two waves of expansion. Is that not a wall? ... It’s a virtual wall,”
Putin went out on a limb and assured Russians that their national economy would rebound after the ruble went down the drain this year but offered no quick remedy for a deepening financial crisis. He’s banking on “trust me” and apparently Russians will. He blamed the economic problems on external factors and said the crisis over Ukraine was caused by the West.
He belittled the effect of the punitive sanctions instituted for Russia’s war with Ukraine, saying that they contributed about 20-25% to the problems
“Rates of growth may be slowing down, but the economy will still grow and our economy will overcome the current situation,” he said. “I believe about two years is the worst case scenario. After that, I believe growth is imminent.”
Putin weighed and measured every word that he expressed in the press conference with laser precision. His words should not be belittled, scoffed at, or overlooked. He definitely meant to say that he will defend Russia’s right to expand territorially in order to protect its independence.
Even his literary metaphors have insights about his mentality and mission. For example, this paragraph from his press conference which speaks about who he will tolerate:
“After all, the line that separates opposition activists from the fifth column is hard to see from the outside. What’s the difference? Opposition activists may be very harsh in their criticism, but at the end of the day they are defending the interests of the motherland. And the fifth column is those who serve the interests of other countries, and who are only tools for others’ political goals.”
Remember, it’s about Russia protecting its independence, its sovereignty and its right to exist at all costs.