Vladimir Putin went to the G20 thinking that he wasn't going to have to do much except sit in a comfortable chair with his fingers tented like a Bond villain, as other countries discussed their economic inter-relationship and possible locations for that Olympics no one wants to host that might end up in Kazakhstan. But then Chelsea Handler made it awkward. And then Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, made it super awkward. As did David Cameron, UK Prime Minister. And despite Vladimir Putin's best efforts at soundlessly communicating his global position of being one needlessly high-tech underwater sea base away from launching a satellite to control Earth's weather, the other leaders seemed oddly unafraid.
President Obama called out Russian President Vladimir Putin for escalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine during an address to the White House press corps on the downed Malaysia Airlines passenger jet late Friday morning. He described the event as “an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” though he said at this time only one American citizen is known to have been aboard the aircraft.
He confirmed that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 “was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border,” adding that American intelligence found that “evidence indicates the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists.” The president was careful to not assign direct blame for the shooting, but did enumerate the recent spate of aircraft downed by militia-launched missiles. He pointed out, however, that the separatists were supported by Russia and could not engage in the level of military action they had achieved without Russian weapons and training.
American military affairs expert William Lind argued on The American Conservative website yesterday that Vladmir Putin’s Russia, particularly in the realm of foreign policy, exemplifies conservatism and the United States should take heed.
One thing I will agree on is that America’s approach to foreign policy over the past 15 years cannot be described as true to American conservatism. However Lind goes further, boldly arguing that Putin’s lip service to hands-off foreign policy, outlined in Putin’s op-ed in The New York Times lecturing America on intervening in Syria, reveals “a conservative Russia.”
Although Lind is smart and well-credentialed, and Putin is correct in noting “military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries” is not in “America’s long term interest,” we cannot mistake Putin’s opportunism for genuine conservative values. Putin chastised the United States for intervening, but his own government has been sending arms to Syria.
The official slogan for the 2014 Winter Olympics currently being held in Sochi, Russia is "Hot. Cool. Yours." But so far, even hot and cold seems too lofty a goal. Social media is buzzing with reports from athletes and members of the press that the accommodations leave something to be desired--unless you like tandem toilet seats, live wires in the shower, and urine hued water. The Twitter account @SochiFails is documenting the worst of the mishaps. But with the games already underway, the problems are far from cosmetic. The Denver Post has a glorious summary:
If you can't trust the Russian government, who can you trust? This must be the question running through the mind of David Satter, a longtime journalist who now posesses the dubious and unfortunate distinction of being the first American scribe denied entry to the land of nesting dolls and Ivan Drago since the fall of the Soviet Union. The journalist has been barred from visiting Russia for at least the next five years.
While I've raised questions about Sarah Palin's readiness myself, I think Conor Friedersdorf gets a bit carried away: