Saturday, 8 March 2014

Putin's theatre of the absurd continues

I can't help the feeling Putin is trying to join the great East European tradition of absurdist theatre (Eugene Ionesco, Slawomir Mrozek, Vaclav Havel et al.). Denying the "self-defence forces" were Russian troops was a stroke of post-modern genius.

Now BBC News is reporting that Russian FM is claiming the Ukraine crisis was "created artificially for purely geopolitical reasons". Which is true, but not in the way he means.

Putin's theatre must be aimed at a purely domestic audience, like the Sochi Olympics (if he intended the games to improve Russia's international image then he's just flushed $50 billion down the drain). No one else around the world is buying the pretence. At the moment, only Assad of Syria has offered support. I presume even Pacific minnows like Nauru and Tuvalu will want to avoid the adverse publicity that would come with selling their UN votes to endorse something so brazen. A few states might confirm the results of the annexation referendum next weekend but I doubt it will be with any great enthusiasm. However, this is playing really well with Russian nationalism. It's like Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia (Putin is much closer to Mussolini than Hitler): the international condemnation is worth suffering because of the boost in domestic support.

(On the other hand, maybe Putin with his "KGB mentality" really does think the revolution in Kyiv was staged by Western intelligence agencies and this justfies him pulling the same trick in Crimea. It's just unfortunate for him that the Crimeans were so sluggish at following his script and he had to create his own "spontaneous uprising").

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