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Putin on the Prowl
Prophecy - Signs
Friday, March 07, 2014
Alf Cengia

''My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy...U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while.'' ~ U.S. President Barack Obama on Russian President Vladimir Putin

According to the Urban Dictionary, shtick (or schtick) is:

'Yiddish slang meaning "gimmick" that has come to mean "someone's signature behavior." In the 1940's, Jewish comedians in the Catskills referred to their comedy routines as their schtick.'

As for Putin's schtick....well, there's nothing comical about it. Speaking of smiling, I wonder if Vladimir Putin puts on his happy face every time a dissenter incurs some sort of terminal mishap. There's a surprisingly long list of these opportunistic mishaps. Putin's either a very lucky guy or he just gets things done.

Perhaps the two most recognized and infamous cases were those of Viktor Yushenko and Alexander Litvinenko. The former was an anti-Russian candidate for president of the Ukraine who was poisoned by Dioxin. The latter had defected from the KGB and wrote the damaging book Blowing up Russia. He died in London from radioactive Polonium determined to have come from Russian sources.

Then there's Georgia. Not the Michael Bolton song.

Who can all recall the 2008 Russian Georgian conflict and all its convolutions? The incidents leading up to that conflict were highly complex and hard to pin down. They're even murkier now. But the main point to take away from that of is that Putin was not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Despite Vladimir Putin's assertion that his intervention in the latest Ukraine conflict was motivated by his desire to protect "minority Russians"; rumbling emerging from the Georgian fiasco have suggested otherwise. Back in 2008, columnist Rick Moran noted:

"It was Reuters reporters who first uncovered the fact that the Russians were lying about Georgian attacks on the city of Tskhinvali. The Russians claimed 2000 civilians were killed and the city nearly razed to the ground by Georgia. In fact, Reuters got a couple of reporters in the city and saw immediately that Russia had wildly misstated the number of casualties while downplaying the fact that it was their artillery that did most of the damage."

The protection of minority Russians "from the aggressive Georgian military" was also invoked during the Georgian conflict. Apparently Russia loves its vulnerable minorities. Unfortunately for Litvinenko, he wasn't considered to be one of them.

During the Georgian conflict, one Russian army lieutenant was quoted saying: "It will be Russia. And Georgia used to be Russian, too." The same sentiment follows for the Ukraine. In fact Ryan Mauro has compellingly asked whether the Russians engineered the Moscow bombings as a prelude to the Georgian invasion. He observed that:

'As territory that was part of the Soviet Union, regaining control over Georgia is a goal of Putin, who has called the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”' (Emphasis mine)

Getting back to shticks, I wonder what President Obama's personal schtick is. It may have something to do with golf (as others have already noted), blame delegation and dumping on Israel. That also has nothing to do with comedy routines.

The differences between the Russian and American President are monumental. Of course, in this bizarre world weakness is strength and strength is weakness. John Kerry recently said of Putin:

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country. That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong.”

Tell that to the Ukrainians and the Georgians.

Yet Putin wouldn't have stood idly by in a hypothetical Russian-Benghazi incident. His boot prints would have been all over that scene. One president is a man of words, while the other acts upon his instincts. One man doesn't love his country with the same consuming passion that the other loves his. One man will eventually retire in comfort. The other will relentlessly pursue his goal for his country's glory in whatever capacity he can, until he dies.

Mind you, the latter could well extend advice to the former as to how to achieve a further term in office. If the U.S. president is interested he may want to initiate mail correspondence with Putin on a regular basis. After all, it worked so well with Rouhani.

Sanctions will not work on Russia for the same reasons they are failing with Iran. Both regime leaders are motivated by national pride, and imperial and ideological goals. Both countries are suffering economic duress which makes them all the more determined and dangerous.

The Washington Post observes that Russia is suffering from shifting gas demand trends. However, it's not in the Russian (or Iranian) nature to quietly cede to the West's economic threats.

It is for that reason that Russia and Iran have networked closely with China, and even North Korea. Iran has reportedly been courting Iraq with arms deals. It has had a historical interest in Iraq, and the fact that Iraq is emerging as the world's fastest growing oil exporter adds a formidable incentive to that interest!

America isn't dead as a world power yet. But it might be later than we think. Overall, the West seems to have lost its bite and smarts.

As Gatestone Institute notes, the E.U. dropped the ball when it failed to extend membership to Georgia and the Ukraine. One sad and rarely mentioned dimension to all of this is the poor Jew:

"As the situation in Ukraine, where nationalists last week deposed pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, is worsening, Jews are receiving blows from both sides. They are distrusted by the Ukrainian nationalists as well as the pro-Russian separatists."

I'm eminently unqualified to speculate on what might next. There are so many possible immediate scenarios. It's like a huge, catastrophic chess match. But I do know this: Israel will figure prominently.

Somewhere in all these possible future scenarios we should also factor in Iraqi oil and Israeli gas. Factor in the Russian courting of Israel's avowed Islamic enemies, along with the reluctance of the West to act decisively.

Finally, remember that there's a Bear on the prowl.

And he's hungry.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: The Problem with Israel

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