Interpreting Putin's Decision

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Wei Zongyou via The Diplomat,

People around the world were astounded by Vladimir Putin’s rapid decision to annex Crimea in response to the latter’s referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, which Kiev and the West view as illegal. The decision also drew worldwide criticism and vehement condemnation by the West and Ukraine, and triggered a second wave of economic sanctions from the United States, and soon afterwards Europe. Relations between Russia and the West are at their chilliest since the end of the Cold War.

So why has Putin risked Russia’s economic welfare and political space to swallow Crimea, push Ukraine out, and alienate the entire Western world? Is Putin “in another world” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed he is? In my opinion, there are at least two considerations behind Putin’s decision.

The first is the realist, geo-political consideration. In Putin’s world, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Russia has lost nearly one fourth of its geography, one half of its population, and more than half of its GDP. Among the “lost” territories are those that are strategically important or militarily advanced, such as Ukraine and the Baltic states. With the eastward expansion of NATO, and the integration of former Soviet satellite states and republics in Eastern Europe and the Baltics into Europe, the traditional buffer zone between Russia and the West is increasingly squeezed and Russia’s space for strategic maneuvering becomes smaller with each year. When Russia craved for entry into the West, this might not have been particularly worrisome or embarrassing for Moscow. But since Russian leaders decided long ago that joining the West was neither particularly helpful to Russia’s political standing nor particularly attractive in terms of economic gains, it has begun to view the expansion of the West at its own strategic expense as both ill-intentioned and threatening.

Ukraine holds a unique position in Russia’s geo-strategic consideration. First, it is crucial territory in the passage of Russia’s oil exports to Europe. Each year more than one third of the oil Russia ships to Europe travels via the Ukraine pipeline. Second, Crimea gives Russia’s Black Sea Fleet access to the Black Sea. If the pro-West Kiev government were to have decided to end its lease to the Russian naval base in Crimea, Russia would have lost its strategic gateway to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Third, Ukraine is deemed the most crucial member of Russia’s Eurasia Union project, an economic and strategic plan to closely connect Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Central Asia. If all goes according to plan, this union will integrate these former Soviet republics and now independent countries economically, politically, and diplomatically with Russia, and go some way to restoring the glory of the Soviet empire at its peak. The “coup d’état” in Kiev and the political orientation of the new government put all these things in jeopardy, if Russia remains disinterested and passive.

The second consideration is more psychological in nature. Following the end of Cold War, embracing the West was the first priority of Russian foreign policy. But to Moscow’s dismay, it found that the West still harbored strong reservations and considerable distrust. Years spent courting and wooing provided little of what Russia craved most: equal membership in the West and economic prosperity. Though Russia became part of the exclusive G8, it never enjoyed the full status and say of the other seven members, always remaining an “other.” Economically, the shock remedy proposed by the West and faithfully implemented by Boris Yeltsin didn’t bring the expected economic benefit. Instead, it took Russia’s economy into freefall, leaving the average Russian worse off than before. Russia’s look West ended in humiliation and disaster.

It was Putin who saved Russia from its miserable condition. He readjusted both Russia’s domestic and foreign policies, and distanced the country from the West, instead seeking opportunities to resurrect past Soviet glories. As the Russian economy improved, the West found that its time was passing. The 2008 economic crisis hit the U.S. and Europe hard and they found themselves more reliant on the emerging powers, Russia included. It is Britain, France, and even Germany who are now busy appealing to Russian oil bacons to buy more and invest more. The balance of power between Russia and the West has shifted. The small war in Georgia in the summer of 2008 only strengthened this trend and the response from the West impressed Russia greatly: Europe is rotten and the U.S. has become too weak to lead. Then came the Arab Spring and the Syria crisis. In the former case, the U.S. “led from behind,” and in the latter it was Russia that decided the course of the Syria civil war.

Russians, and especially Putin learned a hard lesson from the post-Cold War romance with the West: For all the talk of democracy and freedom, the fact remains that the strong dictate to the weak.

With Europe rotten and United States weakened, a resurgent and confident Russia will definitely not let a geo-strategically important former Soviet republic fall entirely into the West’s camp. By annexing Crimea, Putin not only secured Russia’s naval base and its strategic gateway to the Black Sea, he also sent a powerful message to Ukraine and the West: Ignore Russia’s legitimate strategic concerns at your own peril.

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wee-weed up's picture

Very easy to figure out Putin's decision...

He knows who America's current president is.

Manthong's picture

So, Angela.. how much of Putin’s world is re-hypothecated?

.. and which world are you (and the rest of the west) in?

Berspankme's picture

Talk about out of touch with reality- choose any western leader

Ifigenia's picture

and western main stream media, because the majority of citizens of the World are neutral to benevolent to Russia move.

EscapingProgress's picture

The barbarians are at the gate. Washington's power is dwindling by the day. Putin has nothing to fear except mindless babbling from Western douchebags.

aVileRat's picture

Interesting that there is no coverage for the last 2 weeks on the Taiwan protests against the Taipei government's wishes to move closer to China via a free trade agreement (and hollowing out of the Taiwan manufacturing story). Yet all the current Ukranian conflict started with a revolt in a pivot to EU vs. Russia.

Ma has already indicated he will move to China after his term ends. If someone were looking, I would say it has plenty of similarities to the Yanukovich bugout plan.

Just pointing out some dots to connect.


cornflakesdisease's picture

May be part of the big plan.  The US & China are connected at the hip.  If Russia becomes dependant on China, this may be exactly what the Us wants.  Don't forget, China's banking system owns 16% of the Federal Reserve System by proxy.  They are all one happy family.

eurogold's picture

No Putin is not "in another World" rather he recognised and reacted appropriately to the illegal provocations of the West (ie; uprising / protesters supported by the West ). Now he is made out to be the bad guy.

merizobeach's picture

I fucking knew it!  As I moved the mouse to click on this article, I asked "WTF is this--another "Diplomat" article?"  Lame shit.

sessinpo's picture

cornflakesdisease       May be part of the big plan.  The US & China are connected at the hip.  If Russia becomes dependant on China, this may be exactly what the Us wants.  Don't forget, China's banking system owns 16% of the Federal Reserve System by proxy.  They are all one happy family.


This is a malinformed or retarded post.

First of all, China never owned more then 8% of US debt. And China has been divesting itself of that debt at a rapid rate while importing gold.

Secondly, the largest trading partner with China is the European Union, not the US. And who is the EU dependent for energy? Russia. Thus Russia/China have a strangle hold on Europe.

StychoKiller's picture

Better question:  How's that physical gold repatriation going for Germany?

Antifaschistische's picture

he also knows, every TRILLION we go into debt, our strategic options become more and more constrained.

If it weren't for TARP, QE, Obamacare, etc, and the EU debt tsunami..Putin may not have pulled this off.

As for the Ukraine, why they want to jump on the sinking EURO ship is a little beyond me, unless it's just a desperate triumph of hope.

Ifigenia's picture

The elected government postpone signature to Association with EU and was forced out by Vitoria Nulland coup. Just the installed Junata in Kiev want it. So, i am not sure the ukrainians want to jump in EU.

silvermail's picture

No need to repeat the false stamps of Western propaganda. Yanukovych today is the sole legitimate President of Ukraine. It does not depend on its location. And the more it does not depend on the opinion of the U.S., the EU and NATO.
It depends only on the Constitution of Ukraine.

Jack Burton's picture

West Ukraine wants to be saved by the EU. Also, most of the young want an EU right to move. I suggest that when EU absorbs Ukraine, at least 2 million under 30's move within a year. Ask them what they want, it is France, England and Germany. They want outof Ukraine! And who can blame them. I predict Ukraine will never have a vital economy. At best they will be a debt slave with high payments to western banks, low wage slave jobs for the big corporate interests that will secure all Ukrainan industry and agricultrue. The aveage person will be poverty stricken and debt ridden for all of time. Brussels is a Bankers agent, they do big banks bidding and server the large corporate entities of the west.

angryBuddhist's picture

More precicely, western Ukraine doesn't produce shit for their economy and as a result have dreams and hopes of sucking off the hind tit of the EU (which is all but dried up by now). The east is populated by people who actually work for a living and produce something and they don't want to see themselves becoming exploited by the EU (and the west in general) and have the fruits of their labor being sucked away via debt and bad governmental policy. Historically they have traded to the east and have fared rather well with that arrangement and do not want this to change. Can you blame them?

zionhead's picture

Imagine Putin and his KGB buddy's watching all the "Chicago-Bath-House Tapes", all 20+ years of them; laughing their asses off every night drinking vodka.

Then one morning PUTIN is told "Barry" is on the phone and wants to talk ... what the fuck does PUTIN say?

[ Think for a minute that REV Wright and Cass Sunstein, and Rahm Emanuel, didn't record 20+ years of Sexcapades? Damn straight they did. ]

fxrxexexdxoxmx's picture

You think Barry cares if anyone sees the videos of him being a spem catching drag queen. The media would come to his aid and tell everyone that this is great news, now he and Moochelle can finally have the wedding where Barry wears the dress and Moocelle can wear her lumberjack outfit.

wee-weed up's picture

America's sycophant Obozo-lovin' MSM mean diddly-squat to Putie-Poot and his henchmen.

Rakshas's picture

It would be interesting to know who America's current president is..... though I have no doubt that Putin knows a lot more than we do about Barry son of Stanley Ann and I'm sure he has an interesting dossier of the goings on during the Indonesian genocide to which our Chameleon-in Chief was exposed - poor kid but I think such things make for very dangerous leaders.  Though I shouldn't be too hasty, there is every possibility that David Fukinnutsafeller and ZBig nurtured our boy along quite nicely...... well ........ maybe??

With each passing administration it seems the message is louder and clearer - you don't matter, on any level at any time we OWN you full stop!! Slavelandia, Dumbfukistan, pick your GC'ism my only ponderance is what is going to come through that door next.......

kchrisc's picture

And how much debt and reliance upon the Petro$ ponzi the DC US has.

Sort of like playing poker when you have just 5 cards and he's holding the rest of the deck--better fold.


"Guillotine poker: I'll see your bankster and raise you one pol."

BlackVoid's picture

If you believe the president actually decides on anything you know nothing. It does not matter who the president is, or if it does, he is murdered.

silvermail's picture

Crimea was not "annexed" by Russia. The first, Crimea proclaimed the declaration of independence, and only then became part of Russia. Thus, Crimea became part of Russia as an independent subject. This is not an "annexation" in terms of jurisprudence.

silvermail's picture

First of all, lawyers have to give the answer to one simple but important question:
Legally or illegally was change of power in Ukraine.
Lawyers should make ordinary legal examination and issue a final legal opinion.
I assure you that in the world there is no lawyer who can put his signature under the statement about "the legality of armed rebellion in Kiev."

Thus, in terms of Law , so-called "new government in Kiev", is illegal and illegitimate . It is not government power. This is criminal rebels and an impostors. And it does not depend on the opinion of the U.S., the EU and NATO. It says Law.

El Vaquero's picture

What do lawyers matter when Russia has armor, aircraft and guns and is willing to use them when push comes to shove? 


(Thankfully, push has not yet come to shove.)

Mine Is Bigger's picture

The same argument applies even more to the U.S. and the EU.  Yet, they are the ones crying over the "illegality" of Crimea's decision.

Reaper's picture

President Andrew Jackson replied to the US Supreme Court, defying its order, "You and what army?" All courts' decisions and their law interpretations are enforced at their base level by the armed agents of the controlling government. Putin's response to the legalese, "You and what army?"

old naughty's picture

Are these States resolved to ensure national guards would side with own states;  or to help GOP in changing voting rules?

Is Put-in putting us on asking “You and what army?” or is he likely exploring/exploiting the undercurrent?

200,000 at least…And you can care about legality, or not. “I care not who writes the laws?”

Syria-Ukraine--- “Fxxk the EU”.   As “Knuckles” threaded in the China Gold piece: “

somewhere past discovery and first notice ((bad pun, notice, did you notice))... sheesh


Fxxk the world?


...wonder what happened to MH370?

BraveSirRobin's picture

Obama is Putin's bitch!

Obama is Reggie Love's Bitch!

nmewn's picture

"legality of armed rebellion..."

lol...every government/dictator in the world has laws against rebellion, armed or otherwise. Does "that law" make it right or just, is the question.

One of the tenents (with an E) of "law" is the consideration of justice.

If I, as a dictator, decide all property should belong to the state, that is to say, me (I'm a dictator, remember?) does that make it right and just?

silvermail's picture

Before answering your question, I would like to define what we say about the law ? Or about  the dictatorship?
West is keen not to see violations of the law in the form of an armed coup in Kiev. But at the same time , the West really wants to see the law in violation of the independence of the Crimea. It does not happen . If you want a rule of law, then it should be all over .
Otherwise it looks absurd. I can hit you over the head with a stick . But you will be forced to defend themselves , to save their lives . And you hit me for your protect.
What do you think , can the court consider your actions in isolation from my actions ?
If yes, then you are - criminal. Because you hit the person. And it does not matter why you did it . The main thing that you did. That is what we see today as an example of Kiev and Crimea.

nmewn's picture

"Before answering your question, I would like to define what we say about the law ? Or about  the dictatorship?"

No, the question was...and I'll repeat because you don't want to answer...

If I, as a dictator, decide all property should belong to the state, that is to say, me (I'm a dictator, remember?) does that make it right and just?

Your boy Putin had his crony in there (Yanukovich) and the people rebelled against him. We're not talking about the dirtiest shirt here and the crony nature of former "Soviet provinces" and the infestation of oligarchs which permeate nation states across the globe we're talking about the principle of "law" (which you brought up) and the legality vs JUSTICE of rebellion against someone in power going against the desires of the people.

I say people and rebellion trump paper treaties & laws of the state everytime.

Dig up any headless king, tyrant, dictator, president, prime minister or lackey and ask them about the "legality" of their

silvermail's picture

"People rebelled against him ?"

What people? Those people who were given $ 5 billion from Washington ? Or those people who live in the Crimea? Or those people who live in the South- East of Ukraine and now want to return back Yanukovych ?

Ok, I say to you more easier. Suppose that the government in Washington will be captured by the Nazis armed with the support of Moscow and for the money of Moscow. Moscow Immediately recognizes the power of the Nazis as the legitimate authority of the United States.
Attention to the question: Will there be obliged to Texas, obey authority pro- Russian fascists who by force of arms , seized power in Washington?

nmewn's picture

If you keep refusing to answer my question (because its relevant) the conversation is now over and all the hypotheticals in the world won't mask your refusal to answer a simple question.

Ukrainian land was nationalized by Crimea "a subject of Russia", its theft, by a sovereign nation against another, by oligarchs.

All very legal & proper & just in your head, perhaps but not in mine.


Rakshas's picture

Well if you are finished with that how about a volley from the peanut gallery..... The process by which a leader is elected should reasonably indicate the rights ascribed to the electorate, for example if the voting booth uses 7.62 mm FMJ projectiles – I really gotta patent that - and the votes are counted before the bulldozers backfill the hole one could reasonably conclude that low voter participation is acceptable and somewhat understandable. In such a scenario the few would determine the fate of the many - or the bus has one driver however you want to look at it.

If however, the electoral process uses paper ballots and more than one selection for peoples representation in government it would seem reasonable that the people have the right to self determination in thier associations both for themselves as persons and thier lands. Further, in such an increasingly hypothetical society one could expect an election should be held to depose an unworthy leader, perhaps a recall process could be used if such means was provided in the process but in any case the clear intent of the majority of the electorate should determine the outcome of the electoral process; hard to say that with a straight face. 

Of course the problem with most constitutions is they do not hold sacred the law of the constitution beyond all means of corruption, often amendments are introduced and written in specifically ambiguous language by lawyers for lawyers and are sufficiently open to interpretation to allow further amendments to be implemented until a point of total subjugation is reached thus giving rise to an Olympus for the elites. For that reason, I believe, some constitutions have been provided with a means of redress to allow the people the opportunity to recalibrate their representative assemblies should a gross imbalance of power form and a dictatorship reign over the land - to wit “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

silvermail's picture

You did not ask question. You make a number of statements which are erroneous.
"Dictatorship" - this is what we right now see in Kiev. Answer now themselves to your "question."
Good morning.

nmewn's picture

Well, good morning to you too ;-)

"You did not ask question."

I most certainly did ask a question and you even acknowledged it as a question by saying "Before answering your question,..."

And again, the question was:

If I, as a dictator, decide all property should belong to the state, that is to say, me (I'm a dictator, remember?) does that make it right and just?

And there is nothing erroneous about pointing out the fact that popular rebellion supercedes all law. Law is a construct of the state and can be used for good or evil. So, its not erroneous to the object of our discussion, that Stalin (under his laws) is responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainians during the Holodomor, either.

It was "legal" as a matter of "Soviet law" wasn't it? But was it right or just?

Now, I'm going to have to leave for work so I'll look for your reply when I return.

silvermail's picture

Once again you do not ask me any question. Once again you make some statements that are erroneous. Or false - as you more like.
But I'll try to answer you:

1. If grandma had balls, she would be a grandfather. I did not say and do not say about any "if". I'm talking only about the Facts and Laws: The so-called "new government" in Kiev, is illegal and illegitimate junta. It's a fact.  Ukraine Constitution, was crushed of this so-called "new government",  with the full approval of the West. And it is also a legal fact, without any "but" and "if".

2. Famine in Ukraine in the 30s was in areas inhabited predominantly Russian people. It is south and south-east of Ukraine. Most people died of starvation, were Russian, not Ukrainian.
More than any other, today scream and whine about the hunger, only WH Trolls (as you) and representatives of western Ukraine. But on the western Ukraine famine was not. This is called political prostitution. Because all the so-called "Western Ukraine" in the 30s was state lands of Poland.

3. Stalin never struggled with the Ukrainians, it is not necessary to repeat the nonsense for morons on Faux News propaganda. Stalin fought with the class of prosperous peasants, independed of any nationality of them.
Think about this: Stalin fought with the class of wealthy peasants, regardless of their ethnicity. Therefore famine in 30 years was not only in Ukraine, but in Russia and in Kazakhstan, too.

4. Fraud, Famine and Fascism - The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard

nmewn's picture

Ok, I've tried to be pleasant, with no luck.

You are a fucking idiot who I have spent waaay too much time on. The Ukraine was not attacking "Russian speakers" in Crimea, so Putin had no right to invade, he is no different than Stalin or Hitler. He didn't go to Kiev to correct some injustice of "constitutional law". He captured land which is not his or Russian no more than Miami is Cuban. "Kulaks" were an enemy of the state and its laws (which you refuse to acknowledge) and it didn't matter if they were Russian, Tatar or Slav, the state was run by bolshevik maggots like Stalin & Lenin and apparently you.

You go ahead and give in to this contrivance of laws and of states and one day, when the rope tightens around your neck because "its the law", I want you to think back on this exchange with me.

jeff montanye's picture

good points silvermail.  not only these but some 90% of the ukrainian army and most of its navy joined the russian military (they could have left for ukraine or demobilized; some did).  

just because tptb in the u.s. get rewarded after they have left office (e.g. bill clinton worth $100 million) doesn't mean it's any less a bribe.  it just looks a little tidier than 42 kilos of gold left in your apartment.

p.s. it's really "tenets".  with an e but only one n (one can find tenent defined as tenet but really).

silvermail's picture

Corruption is everywhere. But the fight against corruption, cannot justify armed insurrection and the seizure of power by the Nazis in Kiev.

chindit13's picture

Regarding that $5 billion, you know that the number represents US Aid to Ukraine since 1991.  That means it was carried out under Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama Terms I & II.  Do you think---even allowing the assumption that the aid was solely aimed at overthrowing each and every Ukrainian Govt since independence---that money works like the turbo-charger in a 1980's vehicle...lots of lag? Do you even know what foreign aid is?

Five billion over 23 years averages to $18 million per month, which is to say the monthly take home pay of a Top 30 hedge fund manager. 

So how much aid did Putin supply Ukraine over the same period?  How much did it cost to have Yushchenko poisoned?

silvermail's picture

1. Payment and organization of an illegal armed revolution in the country, through mass murder is a crime. It does not depend on the frequency of payments and the time to prepare for the rebellion.
2. Yushchenko was not poisoned. It was a provocation of Washington, to ensure pity electorate and electoral victory for Yushchenko.

edotabin's picture

Dig up any headless king, tyrant, dictator, president, prime minister or lackey and ask them about the "legality" of their

Now, for every headless king, tyrant, dictator, president etc. etc., please dig up about a million people and ask them.

StychoKiller's picture

Torunaga: "There are no 'mitigating circumstances' when it comes to rebellion
against a sovereign lord."
Anjin San: "Unless you win." -- Shogun, James Clavell

Bach's_bitch's picture


If I, as a dictator, decide all property should belong to the state, that is to say, me (I'm a dictator, remember?) does that make it right and just?

It depends on the definition of the words "right" and "just". Given the fact that you consider the violent protest in Kiev to be right and just but not the referendum in Crimea, could you clarify your definitions of them?

silvermail's picture

Washington did substituted "force of law" on the "right of forces" in Kiev.

But the West does not want to see and recognize this.
The West wants to act on the basis of the law of force. But at the same time, the West wants Russia acted in response exclusively under the force of law. But it never happens. If the West thinks that they can solve any problems in spite of the law by force , you have to expect from Russia exactly the same response.
Because the power of law is not effective against snipers and Molotov cocktails.
Against the force can act only by another force. If the West does not understand this, then we will receive Poplars groves, as the last a response from Russia.

But I do not want to die because of some idiots type McCain, who profit from the arms trade. And I do not want my children to burn in nuclear fire, for the sake of profit McCain and other neocons.
If McCain wants to keep his personal war against Russia, then need give for him any aircraft and send to bomb Russia.
He will shot down again by Russian missile and the all our world will be much more safer.