By Saba Long
Six years ago, Vladimir Putin, then prime minister of Russia, accused the United States of stirring up conflict in the Republic of Georgia as a way to influence the 2008 presidential election.
The Kremlin’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, called the Bush Administration’s support of Georgia a “special project” and warned the United States it would have to choose between future ties to Moscow and its relationship with Georgia.
Putin banned exports from a number of U.S. poultry companies under the guise of failed health inspections, alleging that meat being transported to Russia contained arsenic.
In the book, “A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West,” one can indeed get a glimpse into Putin’s soul.
“You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you?” Putin asked, according to a Georgian record of the talk. “Nobody can be trusted! Except me.”
Now, the world is watching yet another play by Putin to puff Russia’s power in eastern Europe and the world at large.
The situations in Kiev, Ukraine, and most recently in Crimea, are difficult to follow, ever changing for all of us – including our policy makers and military leaders.
Famed chess champion Gary Kasparov recently tweeted, “It is essential to watch Putin’s propaganda inside Russia and abroad. He needs the people to go along, so propaganda must rival his actions.”
He also sheds some light on Russia’s narrative of demonizing the West, calling the Ukraine opposition “fascists,” and noting Putin’s public justification of Russia’s actions – protecting poor ethnic Russians in Crimea.
State-owned media has and will continue to push the Putin agenda by declaring the West’s actions as purposeful harm toward Russia.
Much like Bush advisors ran through various scenarios, including military action, the Obama Administration is weighing its options.
Similar to Obama, leaders from the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations have expressed concerns and urged a diplomatic solution.
At Ukraine’s request, NATO met Sunday and released an official statement expressing “grave concern” by the actions of the Russian Parliament authorizing armed forces in Crimea.
The Council went on to state, “We emphasize the importance of an inclusive political process based on democratic values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law, which fulfills the democratic aspirations of the entire Ukrainian people.”
Congressional action is likely to occur over the next few days.
The Obama White House must also consider the safety of American athletes competing next week in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Adding to an already arduous foreign affairs agenda, the Obama Administration’s foreign policy agenda this week includes a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Tough international sanctions must come swiftly. Vladimir Putin is an unapologetic egomaniac with an alarming disregard for human rights. His headstrong desire to dominate European politics while thumbing his nose at the West will continue to reverse the gains Russia has made internationally.