In purely cynical geopolitical terms, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has completely outfoxed President Obama and the whole foreign policy apparatus of the West. The United States and our overfatted intelligence apparatus were caught with their pants down. The Europeans were just as badly suckered. Our National Security Agency may be able to track every email and phone call in the world, but it can’t grasp the plainly stated intentions of our obvious great power opponent, imperialistic Russia, which is now trying to reverse the breakdown of the Soviet Empire in the Cold War.
Putin has played a consistently brilliant chess game, snatching the Crimea — and soon, parts of the Ukraine — long before the West had any inkling. Even as Obama was shafting our closest allies in the Middle East, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Putin stood by Syria and Iran, his allies of convenience in that part of the world. With every East-West confrontation Obama has backed down. Now, with the collapse of Crimea without a shot being fired, Putin has finally revealed his plan.
Putin and his fellow KGB alums who now run Russia are long-distance chess players. Starting from a position of utter weakness with the breakdown of the Soviet Union and its colonies twenty years ago, they have systematically schemed to take power in Moscow, to centralize great chunks of the old Soviet Union, and to reorganize its broken economy on syndicalist lines — a centralized crony capitalism. Russia is still far from its peak power level from Soviet times, but its low-cost reconquest of the Crimea, parts of Georgia, and soon, major parts of the Ukraine count as an unqualified success.
The question is whether renewed Russian encroachment on Europe can ever be stopped. Sixty years ago, at the end of World War II, much of Europe lay in ruins, and the United States stepped in with a credible nuclear guarantee against Stalin and his successors. The Soviets proved to be a greedy type of imperialism, most significantly turning China into an ideological clone threatening all of Asia. Today, Putin and China are once more considering the advantages of a strategic alliance. Just as Russia snatched parts of Georgia and the Crimea, China has laid claim to vast undersea territories hotly disputed by Japan and the Philippines. China is now the biggest imperial exploiter of African resources. Obama has simply ignored a new Sino-Soviet expansionism, the way he always does.
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