As you watch or listen to “news” broadcasts about events in Ukraine and the Crimea, sometimes actual news with varying degrees of correct information, and sometimes either witting or unwitting propaganda, today’s must-read report from Oleg Atbashian is something to keep in the back of your mind as context.
Americans, and particularly naive liberals such as President Obama and much of his foreign policy team, may be inclined to consider the actions of Vladimir Putin and of Russian and Ukrainian nationalists through a filter of western democratic well-meaning…which means that just as they did with the “Arab Spring” they will misinterpret and incorrectly predict almost everything that happens, as well as misunderestimate the determination of our competitors/enemies and overestimate our influence.
I believe the US has little (but more than zero) leverage over Russia, and that President Obama is only slightly less likely than any other recent American president (other than perhaps Ronald Reagan, if you consider that recent) to influence Putin’s behavior. The larger risk is that Obama’s course of action will magnify the increasing perception of the US as a paper tiger, except that that description is insulting to paper tigers.
The level of Russian propaganda aimed at ethnic Russians in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine cannot be overstated. You can read about this, and much more, and I strongly encourage you to do so, in Oleg’s analysis, here.
(Although Oleg has lived in the US for about 20 years, he grew up in The Ukraine when it was under Soviet domination.)
And not to distract too much from the important events in Eastern Europe, it is interesting to point out (as Oleg did to me) how much of the underlying tone of Russian propaganda against the mostly-freedom-supporting new government of Ukraine is similar to the tone that the American left uses against the Tea Party. Other than the anti-Semitic aspects of the Russians’ verbal attacks on the newest Ukrainian revolution, the cries of “fascist” and the unsubtle implications that a government run by people who aren’t beholden to the dictator (whether Putin or Obama) want to hurt anyone different from them is both striking and uncoincidental.
(It’s also amusing that the Russians are calling the new Ukrainian government “fascists” at the same time that they call them tools of the Zionists. And it says something about the ethnic Russians in Ukraine that they don’t recognize that inherent contradiction as a sign that they’re being lied to.)