A few weeks ago residual resentment of the US because of its unjustified invasion of Iraq had been giving Russia cover for its blatant invasion of the Crimea.
Combined with discrete support for businesses that do business with President Vladimir Putin [Unlink]’s regime, especially energy companies, Moscow bullied Ukraine without fear of meaningful reprisals.
Certainly, NATO was not going to send troops into the former Soviet republic, and still won’t, but the image of Ukraine has gone from a haven for neo-Nazis to a victim like Hungary, Czechoslovakia [Unlink] and Poland.
Now it appears Putin’s decision to blow a Ukraine peace deal produced after only a day after talks in Geneva is backfiring.
"Russia has not lifted a finger to help -- in fact, there's strong evidence that they've been encouraging the kinds of activities that have taken place," said US President Obama.
The Russian militias that Moscow created first took journalists hostage and now a team of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It’s been a day since Russia told the OSCE it would obtain the releae of the hostages but they remain in a Russia rebel held city.
The so-called leaders of Slavyansk seem to be ignoring Moscow. They say they will exchange the hostages for prisoners, apparently meaning rebels being held by Kiev.
The situation remains murky, which has benefited Putin, the ex-KGB officer.
The Russian militia paraded their captives in front of news
cameras, the Guardian reported. It was the kind of thing one might expect from
North Korea. Members of the eight-man group were allowed to talk to the
media, and defended their mission. They denied any ties to NATO. For most people the OSCE, a Vienna-based organization is itself murky. Russia is a member. Here is its website. OSCE
Monday the US and Europe will be announcing new sanctions, which are likely to be tougher than those already in place. Washington and the European Union have considerable experience with sanctions, starting with South Africa in the 1980s and extending to Iran and North Korea.
Speaking of murky, where are Putin’s billions? The White House is reviving a search to find them, the New York Times reports.
The Russian President’s reported income for last year was $102,000. Putin is so duplicitous he may himself be fueling rumors of his massive wealth, says Fiona Hill.
Hill, who wrote a biographer of Putin and was the chief Russia expert at the National Intelligence Council, said, “Russians have to have the biggest and the best. It’s part of the mystique, part of the image.”
Analysts say the sanctions in place haven’t really had much impact, but they came at a time when the Russian economy was already in trouble. Tensions in the Ukraine come packed with a wallop. Investors are fleeing. Companies may want to hang on to their assets but stockholders will raise questions. It is not a far fetched idea to imagine breadlines in Moscow again.
Grain embargoes in the past have hurt the world’s largest nation, measured by land mass. Much of it is not prime farmland.
The only thing Russia has plenty of is oil. It has become a mono-crop economy. Again, the timing is bad, because the US has allowed the widespread use of the controversial practice of fracking to become the world’s biggest energy supplier. There is a glut of oil.
Threatening Europe with a cut off of their natural gas was counterproductive. It has resulted in a speeding up of efforts to develop alternative energy sources and alternative sources for fossil fuel supplies.
Moscow also has begun to lose the propaganda war. Russian Television, perhaps the most obvious liar on events Ukrainian, only had one story about it on Sunday. The BBC reported that a Russian Television was the only one allowed to see the dog tags of the hostages.