Saturday, August 23, 2014

The peacemaker malgré lui

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is really not that good at planning:
So I was pretty startled to see a very frazzled Michael Weiss at Foreign Policy announcing that the "humanitarian" truck fleet breaking into Ukraine yesterday was really a Russian invasion, or rather "the" Russian invasion:
Putin's 'humanitarian' convoy is simply a pretext for the war the Kremlin's been planning for months.
Really? No, happily. It was an effort to save face in this very awkward situation which Putin has brought on himself by trying to appear like a hero leading a sacred war that he'd really rather not be leading. The trucks were successfully unloaded and back in Russia within a day, leading one sputtering Ukrainian darkly suggesting that Ukrainian rebels were secretly supplying Russia with arms rather than the previously expected other way around:
By swiftly returning the trucks to Russia, the Kremlin seemed to seize an opportunity to make its detractors in Kiev and the West appear alarmist. The Foreign Ministry said the goals all along had been strictly humanitarian. “We are satisfied that the Russian humanitarian aid for southeast Ukraine was delivered to the destination,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We were guided in this exclusively by the goal of helping needy civilians”....

In Kiev, a military spokesman, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said the Ukrainian government was also hoping to defuse the situation, but he accused Russia of using some of the aid trucks to take military equipment from Ukrainian factories back to Russia. However, he offered no evidence to support his assertion.
The situation in Ukraine isn't one bit funny. The death toll has gone up quite a bit since April, with the UN saying just over 2,000 killed so far (including the 300 lost in flight MH17), half of them civilians, and blame shared between the Novorossiski bandits and the Ukrainian military. Putin, though, with his sour face and insatiable narcissism, is certainly a comic character, as are most of the Ukrainian politicians for that matter, and a good outcome will be like in a Molière play, where the young lovers get their way by a whole ballet's worth (literally!) of flattery for the girl's ridiculous, obsessed father.

John McCain and the US press won't like it very much when it ends with an excuse for Putin to present himself as the wise and generous savior of the situation, but that's how it has to be.

Le Malade Imaginaire, staged by Daniel Hanssens at the Festival Bruxellons, 2010.

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