The Danger of Underestimating Putin

Conspicuously molding himself into a Tsarist-Soviet-Capitalist hybrid, Vladimir Putin is pushing his greedy agenda as far as it can go, and the combined US and EU sanctions are merely a tickle on his grasping hand.

In some ways Russia isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t ever want to see that despotic regime of automatons again, but in other ways Russia is the same icy behemoth dealt with by President Roosevelt on down. Cold, calculating and single-minded. They couldn’t have picked a better leader (lest we forget, he spent his formative years as a KGB agent specializing in grooming agents to infiltrate the US).

Obama’s missteps aside, generations needs to remember what the Soviet Empire was and what the former-Soviet Empire is capable of. The country has changed since the days of glasnost and perestrioka, certainly, but those missiles are still buried in the tundra and its boomer subs still slouch beneath the seas. As a recent Russian news anchor reminded us, they still have the power to turn us into radioactive dust. Younger generations need to be reminded of this, perhaps by a national airing of The Day After.

Today, too many Americans have an image of Russia as a capitalist democracy wrapped in Cyrillic lettering. That’s far from the reality. Its government censors the news to such a point that news isn’t news, it’s propaganda masked as news (which is far more dangerous than simple propaganda).

I’m not saying a full-on US military intervention is the key, because a war with Russia can only end badly for both sides. But limp-wristed sanctions aimed at key Russians that reduce their wealth from $8 billion to $7 billion isn’t going to drop this new Berlin Wall. In fact, that reaction is exactly what Putin bet on when he first moved into the Crimea and staged its elections.

If it was that easy to take Crimea, why not move into the rest of the Ukraine? The only thing stopping him in a bickering boardroom full of aging bureaucrats, dead set at keeping the peace at any cost, even if that means allowing Putin to restore the Soviet Union piece-by-piece.

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