Putin the Pariah

Russian President Vladimir Putin is exhibiting all the signs of a master statesman from the Cold War era. The impressive showing at the Winter Olympics seems like a distraction for the slow motion invasion of Ukraine. His annexation of Crimea went unhindered. His “concern” for Ukrainians was hardly genuine. He has avoided major censure for the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17. Now, Putin addresses the Russian rebels directly:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday publicly addressed pro-Russian rebels fighting in southeastern Ukraine for the first time , praising their “major success” inside Ukraine.

The Kremlin released a late-night statement from Putin on its website in which he appealed to the militia of “Novorossyia,” or “New Russia.”

It’s a term he has used before to describe the regions in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged for months — a term that describes  the area north of the Black Sea that was conquered by Russia in the late 18th century through peace treaties with the Cossack Hetmanate and the Ottoman Empire. In 1922, the area became part of the Soviet Union. The term is mostly used now by Russian nationalists who wish for Russia to reconquer the area.

” It is clear the militia has achieved a major success in intercepting Kiev’s military operation, which represents a grave danger to the population of Donbass and which has already led to the loss of many lives among peaceful residents,” Putin said in his statement to the militia.

If there is anyone who understands the power of history, even a propagandized one, it’s a former KGB agent.

To complete this belligerent image, Putin issues this threat

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armor to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge.

“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts,” he said at the camp on the banks of Lake Seliger. “We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.

“Russia’s partners… should understand it’s best not to mess with us,” said Putin, dressed casually in a grey sweater and light blue jeans.

“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.” 

Does anyone still believe he is a good guy? Still?