Putin flipped a double bird at the world, traveling to Sevastapol to deliver a truculent speech at a Victory Day celebration in the Crimean port city.
A major theme of Putin’s short (4 minute) speech was a demand for respect of Russia.
Obsession with respect and disrespect is characteristic of mafioso, gangbangers, and other psychopaths. Given the rapturous reception to Putin’s rhetoric and actions in Russia, one can only conclude that this is a national trait.
In news from Ukraine, Victory Day wasn’t as bad as I feared. There was fighting in Mariupol that left 21 dead (20 of them apparently separatists killed when the police station that they had seized was retaken by Ukrainian forces). But for the most part, the country was peaceful though restive.
And speaking of psychopaths, the separatists in the Donbas are proceeding with their referendum, allegedly without Russian support. But thinking through the decision tree, this is really a no lose situation for Putin. He (via the GRU) started this effort. If separatist sentiment appeared broad and deep (similar to what appeared to be the case in Crimea) he could support the referendum, insist it proceed, and claim that he was “respecting the right of self-determination” and demand the world do the same. If separation had little support, Putin could do what he has done: request that it be stopped. No doubt, however, he is encouraging the effort privately, because he can now claim publicly that the separatists’ insistence on proceeding demonstrates he does not control them. What’s more, the apparent climbdown feeds western apathy and encourages western delusions that he can be negotiated with.
And I am sure you are shocked, but there is zero evidence that Russia has withdrawn troops from the border. Nato and the US deny they have observed any movement. But you don’t have to take their word for it. Recall that when Russian troops were moving to the border, there were numerous videos posted on YouTube and numerous photos posted on Twitter and elsewhere showing convoys of Russian armor moving west, on trains, and on the roads. There have been no similar postings of troops moving in the opposite direction either before or since Putin’s claim that the troops had returned to their bases.
This isn’t over. The subversion continues. The election is two weeks out, and expect the efforts to undermine it to pick up.