President Obama and many other people in the West would like to think that Vladimir Putin is basically a reasonable guy. By “would like to think,’’ I mean that they fear him and so their default is appeasement. Welcome to Czechoslovakia, 1938. Some in the West even lauded the “cease-fire’’ in eastern Ukraine engineered by the Russian dictator that left in place his occupation there, not to mention the seizure of Crimea. And the Russian-led violence continues in eastern Ukraine. But Putin is a relentless liar and schemer driven by a thirst for power for its own sake and a longing for the Soviet Empire.
The West has failed so far to send weapons to the Ukrainians so that they can properly defend themselves from the Russian invasion. And there’s little sign that European defense budgets will be rising substantially anytime soon to counter Putin, who can be summed up in his obscene remarks that that the collapse of “Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century.’’ The Soviet regime killed many millions of Soviet subjects. But then, former KGB man Putin did very well under the Soviets. He also knows, as gangsters tend to know, how to manipulate his foes.
For example, he’s peddled, with some success, the lie that most Ukrainians in the Russian-invaded part of that sovereign nation want to be part of Putin’s regime.
The economic sanctions so far imposed by the West are mostly a joke to the likes of Putin and his entourage. If they cause some distress among the Russian population, who cares? Putin’s entourage will be okay.
Then there’s the Islamic State. It’s good to see that President Obama is finally trying hard to get other nations to join us in destroying it, but it will be difficult because of our Western allies’ disinclination to unduly exert themselves in military matters — the thing that counts most when it comes to the perverts staffing this “caliphate.” (As for such U.S. “allies’’ as Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — they are deeply corrupt dictatorships some of whose people have helped finance and otherwise create the likes of the Islamic State and al-Qaida.)
For the longer term, we must defang the Middle East and the Putin regime by weaning ourselves and the world off the oil and gas that pay for their barbarism. One way would be a carbon tax to get people off fossil fuel in the United States, and thus reduce demand for it worldwide. And, for the immediate future, we can do what Thomas Friedman of The New York Times suggested — “lift our self-imposed ban on U.S. oil exports’’ to lower the world price of a commodity that disproportionately benefits dictators.
We might make fun of those Renaissance paintings in which little devils skitter around. We don’t like to accept that there’s something like evil in the world. But you look at something like the Islamic State and the Putin regime and you realize that those people in 1500 were on to something.
--- Robert Whitcomb