I feel a bit like Winston Churchill today.
A full decade before World War Two started, my buddy Winny started panicking about a little German guy with a funny mustache.
Nobody really believed him. Nobody really had any good reason to believe him. Hitler was just a political reject in a broken country when Churchill started his dirge of doom. Fresh out of World War One, nobody wanted to hear that, so he was mocked and sent into political exile until Hitler had rolled up most of Europe.
So why did he make such outlandish claims about Hitler when there was so little supporting evidence? It's very simple. He studied the man and knew what sort of person he was. He knew enough about history and about mankind to know that a power-hungry zealot like Adolf would not be stopped until someone stopped him.
That is how I feel about Putin.
Let me paint a picture for you. Putin is a fighter pilot, judo master, ex-KGB agent. That all by itself should be a fair hint that this is one scary sucker (The dead shark eyes don't help much either).
That is just the beginning, though. He also has a long and questionable history of making his political problems magically disappear. People were whispering about poisonings and media tampering over ten years ago. Somehow everyone managed to move past all that because everybody knew that Putin was on his way out. Sure, he had been a scary and manipulative president, but he had been good for Russia overall and his terms were up. He would have to leave the presidency and all would be well. Right?
It possibly would have been, but instead he just stepped down to Prime Minister while another person nobody really remembers kept the seat warm for him. As soon as that constitutional formality was out of the way, he stepped right back into the presidency, stronger than ever.
Enter Ukraine. It is a country very valuable to the Russian economic scheme and it has never been out from under Putin's watchful eye. I refer you to my last blog post about Yanukovych, who served as Putin's toadie in Ukraine, making sure that the country's policies stayed very Russian.
At last, the Ukrainian people manage to oust the sad sack and he runs away to Russia. No big surprise there. But now, Yanukovych tells a stirring story of an illegal coup and an imminent danger to the Russian-speaking peoples of Ukraine. Coming from that would-be tyrant and murderer of his own people, it is a truly laughable accusation.
But I stop laughing when Putin jumps right on board and immediately sends "peacekeeping" troops into Ukraine's borders to "preserve democracy." Over 16,000 Russian troops now stand on Ukrainian soil, with supporting armor and air support.
So we might expect that the peacekeeping troops have been helping quell riots and repair the damage done in the capital, right?
Wrong. The force landed on the Crimean Peninsula, stopping up Ukraine's major ports and shipping lanes in the Black sea, over five hundred miles from Kiev! Geography alone is more than sufficient to tell the truth of the thing.
This is an invasion.
There is no way around it and no other possible explanation for the massive amount of troops and armor in that location. Leaders in the West have wagged their heads in the most disapproving way they knew how. Now they have even threatened to have talks about some sort of economic sanctions. May there be peace in our time.
Putin is five moves ahead in this chess game and our leaders still think we're playing Go Fish. Those who know me are fully aware that I do not hold or spread any sort of extreme views. So I hope that there is a sense of gravity in the mind of my reader when I say that we are staring down the barrel of war.
We may push it back a while, mostly through selling out Ukraine for a promise of diplomacy; but I challenge anyone out there to study the life and policies of Vladimir Putin and tell me that he doesn't have the will and capacity for domination in the East.
It is my fondest hope to be wrong about this. But I don't think I am.