The Russian Godfather

WARSAW – Russian President Vladimir Putin is behaving like a Mafia boss. In invading, occupying, and finally annexing Crimea, he pointed Russia’s guns at Ukraine and said: your territorial sovereignty or your life. So far, extortion has worked – and Putin knows it.

Indeed, in his speech announcing the annexation of Crimea, Putin spoke his mind: his regime fears no punishment and will do whatever it pleases. Crimea is just the first step toward realizing his dream of revived Russian greatness.

His address in the Kremlin was a tissue of lies and manipulation, though a subtle analysis would be a waste of time. The simple fact is that the president of one of the world’s most powerful countries has embarked on a path of confrontation with the entire international community. His speech smacked of the fevered, paranoid world of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Demons, conjuring as it did a delusional alternative universe – a place that does not exist and has never existed.

What does Kosovo, where the Albanians suffered persecution and ethnic cleansing, have in common with the situation in Crimea, whose people have never been oppressed by Ukrainians? What is the point in displaying open contempt for Ukraine’s government, parliament, and people? Why label Ukrainian authorities “fascist and anti-Semitic”? Crimean Tatars pay no heed to the fairy tales about fascists ruling Ukraine; they can still remember the brutal and murderous mass deportations of their parents and grandparents, ordered by Stalin and carried out by the NKVD.