Putin The Not So Sharp Shooting Russian President

As we speak, Australia is playing host to the G20 summit in sunny Brisbane. And it is. Very sunny I mean and very hot as well as Downunderville rolls into a southern hemisphere pre summer.

The G20 is where world leaders gather to talk about and make decisions that will benefit mankind as a whole. But usually ends up doing neither.

Anyway, all of the leaders of the free and not so free world have lobbed into Brisbane: Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Jin Ping to name a few. But there is one world leader I just don’t get at all.

When I say ‘get’ what I mean is like. I can’t say I am a big fan of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Now in my defense I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide the Russian President is not for me. This bloke has been on my radar for a while. For a start there’s that photo of Putin, you’ve probably seen, of him bare-chested, carrying an enormous rifle with a telescopic sight.

I mean what was that all about?

Some commentators have very kindly suggested it’s part of Putin’s PR spin to the Russian people.This is a no nonsense tough guy who’s here to remind everyone that post cold war Russia is still a formidable world power. Putin can’t be pushed around. Here is a man who’s not afraid to use force so best not to mess with him.

Maybe I need to be Russian to get it but I have to be honest and say that photo said none of those things to me.

I think Putin just looked like a redneck. A bogan. That photo implied nothing that was authoritative, measured, thoughtful or considered, as you would expect a world leader to be. Instead it showed someone deeply flawed. We are talking about impressions. And I think this was the wrong impression to be giving anyone.

But that’s nothing compared to some of the things that have happened in that part of the world causing me, and a lot of other people, to feel uneasy. For example, there are the Russian journalists who’ve ended up dead after they opposed or criticized him. Crimes that remain unsolved and more than likely will never be solved.

But the anti Putin sentiment reached a crescendo with the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight over the Ukraine, killing everyone on board. Instead of being contrite, humble and apologetic in the face of mounting evidence that Kremlin backed, Russian separatists were responsible. Putin was bellicose and belligerent.

I am not a big fan of the current Australian Prime Minister. Nor am I a particular fan of his brand of politics. But I take my hat off to him when he said Russia must come clean and atone for what happened to flight MH17.

It was followed by press reports here and in Russia of the Australian Prime Minister threatening to ‘shirtfront’ the Russian President. No doubt it was a bit of political bravado from the Australian Prime Minister’s office to grab a headline. It also might have been a bit tactless but no less so the Russian President’s over the top response.

Having been invited as a guest of Australia at the G20, Putin ordered a fleet of Russian warships to sail into Australian waters. This is yet another example of the macho Russian President’s sledgehammer approach to international relations. It’s a bit like being invited into someone’s home for the first time and rubbing your muddy boots all over their brand new, white mohair rug.

Putin just seems intent on resurrecting the dangerous brinkmanship of the 1960s Cold War. Some of the incidents in recent times: A simulated Russian attack on a Danish island as it played host to 90 thousand people at a political festival, Putin telling a youth camp that other countries should realise “it’s best not to mess with us,” that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations in the world and it was actively strengthening its nuclear deterrent.

What was Putin trying to achieve in saying this? I guess it makes sense if you want to go down in history as the man who ended our world as we know it. He’ll be making history. Except there won’t be anyone left to write about it or read it.

The Australian Prime Minister urged Russia to be a super-power for ideas and values instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of Tsarist Russia or the old Soviet Union.

In any case Putin seems to have forgotten, the real power these days lies in economics and this is where his hawkish approach to international relations could backfire.

The risk is that Russia will be seen as an unpredictable partner, a global bully, someone with whom very few countries can develop a normal and robust relationship.

But it’s clearly something Putin is prepared to wear especially if it makes him look good to the folks back home.

I suppose we couldn’t say nyet to inviting him to the G20 but I, for one, won’t be sorry to see him leave.

Armageddon

I read something today that has not reared its ugly head for at least two decades or more. Two words that are frightening and chilling: Nuclear War.

Just when I thought that human beings had come to the realization that nuclear war doesn’t end in anyone’s victory. You just succeed in annihilating the human race. So what is the point of even talking about it? Well try telling that to Vladimir Putin. He seems to think there is a point. So much so that he deliberately warned of nuclear war in relation to any NATO plans for intervention in the Ukraine.

He told a Youth Forum, and the irony should not be lost here, Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations in the world. It is a reality, he said, not just words. Little did he realise or maybe he did realise he would also be condemning his audience of young Russians to annihilation.

A conventional war has already begun in the Ukraine. That is why Putin’s words should chill to the bone. Ukraine’s Defence Minister warned on Facebook to expect casualties in the tens of thousands. He said a Great War had arrived at Ukraine’s doorstep the likes of which Europe had not seen since World War 2. And it seems Putin agrees with that assessment. The Russian President reportedly told the outgoing President of the European Commission that if Russia wanted to it could take Kiev in two weeks. What is even more worrying, if that could be possible, NATO is taking Putin’s words seriously. They are already discussing a rapid response force of several thousand soldiers to react to any invasion of a member state. It will also include combat aircraft and naval ships from all 28 members of NATO. At this stage Ukraine is not a member of NATO, thank God, but it wants to be and NATO wants it to be.

Putin in even more inflammatory language referred to eastern Ukraine as the new Russia and warned the United States and NATO to back off. Putin said Russia did not want to engage in any large-scale conflicts. But at the same time one Russian news agency quoted him as saying that Russia was “ strengthening our nuclear deterrent forces and our armed forces” which seems to suggest the exact opposite.

Some estimates suggest that Russia has 1800 operational nuclear weapons with a stockpile of an additional 7000 warheads.

Russia is now making no secret of its intentions in relation to Ukraine. Russian tanks, trucks and armored vehicles have been observed crossing its borders with Ukraine. Pictures have been flooding into social media sites. A major Ukrainian airport is reported to have fallen to Russian forces. Loyalist Ukrainian forces are digging in around cities on the Baltic coast. The Russian objective at this point is to capture a bridge of land between its territory and the Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine says its forces are already in retreat. They will be no match for the might of Russia. Just how many Russian soldiers are presently fighting in Ukraine is anyone’s guess. Some say a thousand troops others say five thousand. The point is the deployment is only going to get more substantial as time goes on.

This is a nightmare waiting to happen. The worse case scenario: a nightmare that’s already begun. Certainly it is already for Ukraine. The way things stand it won’t take much for it to be upon us all. And God help us all if that happens.