This past week Ukraine voted to join the Western nations for trade and other activities. This is a big fat slap in Putin's skinny face. This is what Putin dreaded. This is why he stirred up trouble in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, as a way of threatening Ukraine. This is why Russian tanks were on the border of Ukraine. This is why the terrorism and intimidation. And the violence that has taken more than 50 Ukrainian lives.
Putin put it all on the line to scare Ukraine out of aligning with the West. And he has lost.
Thanks to Obama.
Once again President Obama played it just right. He didn't let Putin lure him into overt hostile action, which would have given Putin the excuse to roll those tanks. Instead he squeezed Russia hard enough economically that Putin had to pull the tanks back. Ukraine's new president saw that Putin had been just bluffing, and therefore Ukraine's leader was emboldened to sign the treaty with the West.
Obama is getting no credit for his smooth moves in this matter, just as he got none for outfoxing Putin on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons. The media doesn't understand how Obama finesses these tricks. For a poker player, Obama is also damn good at bridge. But he leaves the media scratching its collective head. And he can't explain his moves to the media. The essence of his tactics is that they are secretive and quiet. Once you start boasting of how you've just finagled one past Putin. you won't ever get a chance to do another such move.
Putin is all about pride. That explains the shirtless photos, the monstrous Olympic opening, the strutting. Obama knows this well. He always allows Putin to hang on to a shred of pride, to keep a good face on his losses. Maybe this knack or focus comes from Obama's young years in Asia, where "face" is so important. I doubt that. Allowing the other guy to hold on to a pretense of respectability is standard tactics in all good, shrewd dealing. Only rarely do you need to shame your opponent.
Some credit goes also to Ukraine for having the guts to sign the piece of paper and thus poke a finger in the eye of Putin, the Russian bear. The Ukrainians have been brave throughout this difficult time. They have now made their choice of a future. On the same day, Georgia and Modova also signed up with the Western world. Like Ukraine these two are also breakaway former Soviet republics.
Welcome to the three of you. You have had a long and dark time of it but now you have stepped into the sunlight. So pull up a bench to the picnic table and have some barbecue ribs. You're family now.
And just in time for the Fourth of July!