Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
(First of 3 columns on Russia-Ukraine war)
Back in 2019, my opinion column called, Don’t Underestimate Putin’sThreat, was published. I quoted Ukrainian-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s joke about how the KGB, Soviet Russia’s secret police, stood for Kiss Goodbye Your Butt. Today’s Russia is “…a world erupting with new money and new power” says British producer Peter Pomerantsev in his book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. Not much has changed. Russia still uses the KGB “false flag” strategy, claiming that the current conflict is Ukraine’s fault, pseudo-annexing Russian-leaning parts of Ukraine and sending in its military as “peace keepers”.
Ever wonder how Vladimir Putin served as Russia’s president twice and prime minister twice after being a KGB intelligence officer for 16 years? Journalist David Satter reports that Putin created a false-flag operation against Islamist Chechen rebels to become Russia’s “Bloody Czar”. The false-flag strategy relies on lies, redirection and intimidation, resulting in our immobility and Putin’s success in restoring the “Russian world”.
That’s why Putin denied any intent to invade while increasing Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and deploying Russian troops in Belarus. And when Biden accused Russia of fabricating the Ukrainian crisis as an excuse to invade, Putin tested Russia’s nuclear missiles, a scare tactic going back decades.
Remember the1960s Cuban Missile Crisis? America was in a Cold War standoff when the Soviets installed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba and President Kennedy enacted a naval blockade to protect our national security. The Soviets finally removed their missiles, a trade-off for our assurances that we wouldn’t invade Cuba.
Ironically, Putin’s recent nuclear gotcha was backed up by Ukrainian warheads transferred to Moscow in return for assurances of Ukraine’s territorial safety from Russia, the U.K., and America. Putin promptly invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula after claiming that he had no intention of doing so. He then escalated Russia’s military presence and leveraged nuclear threats to solidify Crimea’s new status. Sound familiar?
Why would anyone believe Putin’s assurances that he had no intent to invade… unless Ukraine forced him into it. We know that it’s Russia, not Ukraine, that’s fomenting war. At least, most of us do. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson insisted that we take Putin’s side, calling Putin’s invasion “humanitarian” because Ukraine’s president is such a dictator.
It’s past time to reject the Putin Fan Club fostered by Trump who early on made sure that the 2016 Republican platform wouldn’t call for providing weapons to Ukraine to fight Russia and rebel forces. At their 2018 Helsinki summit, Putin and Trump caused alarmed confusion by secretly discussing a referendum in Eastern Ukraine, a strategy used in annexing Crimea. Trump covered for Putin, declaring that Putin didn’t see Ukraine as part of Russia. Right.
Republicans’ continual struggle over Ukraine was evident when they careened from calling Biden weak to calling Democrats “warmongers.” Echos of Trump could be heard in claims that GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney were Ukrainian lobbyists. While several Republicans supported Ukraine, not surprisingly, only Kinzinger and Cheney serve on the House committee investigating the Capitol riot.
Don’t gift Putin with the chaos caused by the Jan. 6 “legitimate political discourse”. We need to be unified in conceding nothing and using every sanction possible. When Trump calls Putin a genius with the kind of militarized peace-keeping force in Ukraine that we should have at our own border, remind your elected officials, “Don’t Drink the Russian Kool-Aid!” Because if the Putin Fan Club revs up, get ready to “Kiss Goodbye Your Butt”.