Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is clearly not a fan of Russia’s government, but he nevertheless said last week how impressed he is with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic acumen. Putin, McCain said, has “played us so incredibly,” apparently because President Obama is “the most naive president in history.”
Mitt Romney made similar comments a month ago: “I think Putin has outperformed our president time and time again on the world stage.” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added last fall, “I do think Putin is playing chess and we’re playing tick-tack-toe.”
I suppose that’s possible, but when Kiev erupted in violence, Putin backed his ally, Viktor Yanukovych, and hoped to see him stay in power. And where’s Yanukovych now?
Mr. Yanukovych appears to have surfaced on Thursday in Russia, five days after he was driven from power by mass protests and fled from Kiev, the national capital. He warned that the largely Russian regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, including Crimea, would “not accept the anarchy and outright lawlessness” that has gripped the country. He declared that he remained the lawful president of Ukraine and appealed to Russia to protect “my personal safety.”
As a political matter, this is starting to remind me of the crisis last fall in Syria.
As tensions grew, Republicans in the United States praised Putin, but it was Obama who got what he wanted – the Obama administration pushed Syria into the chemical weapons convention, created a framework to rid Syria of its stockpiles, successfully pushed Russia into a commitment to help disarm its own ally, and quickly won international support for agreement.
The right seemed dazzled with Putin’s leadership, but when the dust settled, it was the Russian president that was stuck ridding a Russian client state of its chemical weapons.
And as the crisis erupted in Ukraine, the right again saw Putin as triumphant, but as of this morning, it’s Arseniy Yatsenyuk in the prime minister’s office, not Putin’s ally Yanukovych.
If Putin is “playing chess,” have Republicans considered the possibility that he’s not playing very well?