Russian President Vladimir Putin may have to endure the stern disapproval of U.S. President Barack Obama, and the occasional insult from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as a result of his invasion of Ukraine. But at home, his approval ratings have soared to nearly 70 percent, up from just above 60 percent in December. Over 70 percent of Russians support Putin's tactics in the Crimea; fewer than one in five oppose his policy.
The Russian parliament is expected to support Crimean secession, the Wall Street Journal reports, and even some Russian opposition leaders are praising Putin. One quoted by the Journal claims: "If Putin returns Crimea to Russia without blood, he will go down in history as a great, and there's nothing you can do about that."
As Charles Krauthammer writes in a must-read column today:
Vladimir Putin is a lucky man. And he’s got three more years of luck to come
He takes Crimea, and President Obama says it’s not in Russia’s interest, not even strategically clever. Indeed, it’s a sign of weakness.
Really? Crimea belonged to Moscow for 200 years. Russia annexed it 20 years before Jeffersonacquired Louisiana. Lost it in the humiliation of the 1990s. Putin got it back in about three days without firing a shot.
Now Russia looms over the rest of eastern and southern Ukraine. Putin can take that anytime he wants — if he wants. He has already destabilized the nationalist government in Kiev. Ukraine is now truncated and on the life support of U.S. and European money (much of which — cash for gas — will end up in Putin’s treasury anyway).
Obama says Putin is on the wrong side of history, and Secretary of State John Kerry says Putin’s is “really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.”
This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen.
Now, as always, the flaw of liberalism is the final intractability of human nature.