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Still Crazy After All These Years

I have been going through an extremely high variance travel experience, hence the light posting. And no, the crazy in the title does not refer to me and what United Airlines has done to me over the last 3 days.

Instead, I am referring to Putin, who has been on a major roll at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Where to begin? One statement is loonier than the next.

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A lot of it is whining about how Russia doesn’t get any respect.

Note to Vova: respect has to be earned. Cleptocratic autocracies that annex the territory of other countries and foment rebellion in other countries often come up short in the respect department. Just sayin’.

Putin justified the annexation of Crimea by saying that if he hadn’t, Ukraine could have joined NATO and Sevastapol would have become a NATO base.

First of all, Ukraine was and is decades away from any possibility of being in NATO. Any belief that Ukraine’s ascension to NATO was or is imminent is the raving of a paranoid mind. Not to mention that never during Maidan or post-February 22 had breaking the Russian lease to Sevastapol been mooted.

Second, raising NATO as a bogeyman is also the raving of a paranoid mind. Other than the US, and maybe France and UK on good days, NATO couldn’t fight its way out of a piss soaked paper bag (as Patton used to phrase it). It is militarily shambolic, spending well under 2 pct of GDP on defense, and most of that is on waste and militarized welfare rather than weapons. But Schaeuble says no, no, no, NATO nations should raise defense spending in response to Ukraine or any of Vlad’s other adventures.

To illustrate how toothless NATO is, consider the fact that when the Russians sent the carrier Kustnetsov through the Channel (rather than around Ireland, per usual), the Dutch navy did not have a single ship to dispatch to follow it, and also has no maritime patrol aircraft to shadow any vessel sailing of its shores.

All this stuff about big, bad NATO is so much hot air. Militarily, NATO is the US, and as anyone following things knows, in the era of Obama and sequestration, US military capability is extremely stretched. And the prospects for Sevastapol becoming some sort of NATO outpost are somewhere between zero and as if.

Another of Vlad’s wacko statements was that the only reason the US wants to impose sanctions on Russia is to achieve competitive advantages over the EU. Or something:

“By insisting on sanctions against Russia, I suspect that our American friends, and they are shrewd guys, may wish to gain certain competitive advantages in their trade and economic relations with Europe,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday.

Exactly how that works is beyond me.  The US is going to replace Russia as a supplier of gas to Europe and accelerate that process through sanctions? Really?

This is part of Putin’s plan-which has been all to successful-to sow discord between Europe and the US.

In the same conversation, Putin said this about Ukraine:

“A civil war is starting in Ukraine, but what do we have to do with that?” the Russian president asked.

Try “everything” for an answer.

Relatedly, Putin had the chutzpah to demand of Ukraine: “Where’s our money?” [for natural gas]. To which Ukraine should reply: “Where’s our Crimea?”

But as stiff as the competition was, this had to be Putin’s most outlandish uttering:

“Russia is not the type of country that gives up fighters for human rights,” Putin said during the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Actually, I sort of agree with that. When the fighters for human rights happen to be Russians, the country doesn’t give them up: it imprisons them, beats them, or kills them. Because Russia is not the beacon for human rights, as Putin outrageously suggests: but because it is the enemy of human rights.

Face it. The world is dealing with someone who either is believes the most insane things, or is willing to say the most insane things even when he knows they are crazy. Either way, this man is a menace. Not someone before whom it is necessary to cringe, or to extend a hand. Indeed, what Merkel says is as crazy, or crazier, than anything Putin has been saying. And that is saying something.