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Putin Unleashes Rogozin the Rabid

Rogozin the Ridiculous is reveling in the role of Rogozin the Rabid in the post-Crimea period.

He made a road trip to Transnistria, where he said that if Moldova continues to pursue closer relationships with the EU and NATO, Russia would “unhitch” Transnistria from Moldova, a la Crimea. While in  Chisinau, Rogozin collected petitions pleading for Russia to Crimea-ize Transnistria.

The plane carrying some of the petitions and part of the Russian delegation was intercepted in Ukrainian airspace and forced to return to Chisinau, where the documents were seized. Rogozin took to Twitter, where he insinuated the plane he was on had been intercepted. But in fact, Rogozin was on another flight and made it to Moscow with some additional petitions, and the intercepted plane only carried his flunkies.

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Romania had refused overflight to the Russian aircraft, which sent Rogozin into paroxysms of rage. He threatened to return to Moldova in a Tu-160 strategic bomber. The Romanians were not amused.

But Rogozin was just getting started. He has now communicated threats to shut off GPS stations in Russia, to cut off sales of Russian rocket engines to the US, and to deny US access to the international space station after 2020.

The last threats are unsurprising, and expected countermoves to US sanctions (e.g., cutting off exports of military-related technology). But the zest with which Rogozin delivered them is revealing.

But the most revealing thing is that Putin is unleashing Rogozin, and making the rabid one the public face of the Russian government. He is calculating that the weak-kneed in the west will wilt before this rhetorical onslaught. And sad to say, he is probably right.