Friday, 18 April 2014

Humpty Putin

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said. 
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' " 
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected. 
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." 
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." 
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all." 
(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Putin has been acting like Humpty Dumpty throughout the crisis. First he claimed there were no Russian troops in Crimea; yesterday he said there were - although there are definitely none in eastern Ukraine. No, sirree.

The "peace deal" will break down over such semantics. "Illegal groups" in Ukraine must disarm. To Putin, this will mean Pravy Sektor and Maidan groups in general. Given that he doesn't regard the Kyiv government as legitimate, he can also widen the definition to cover the Ukrainian army. He can use Yanukovich, the "legitimate" president, to validate the actions of ex-Berkut and other paramilitaries in the east if necessary. He can continue to deny the "little green men" have anything to do with him while expressing concern for their human rights. If such rights are violated, wouldn't that be an illegal action? The Duma has granted Putin the right to intervene in Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians so if the Russian army rolls over the border then by Putin's logic it would not constitute an "illegal group". Well, at least he's ensured everybody can have a weekend break, although I doubt too many Putinist apparatchiks will be holidaying in Crimea.

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