'Playing marbles'

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) watch a military exercises at Kamenka polygon on March 3, 2014 near Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) watch a military exercises at Kamenka polygon on March 3, 2014 near Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) appeared on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, raising a compelling suggestion about domestic politics in the context of the Ukrainian crisis.
"We're 48 hours from an international crisis, I would hope Americans would focus on condemning the actions of Putin rather than in a knee-jerk way, again, criticizing the president of the United States," the congressman said.
What a nice, wholly unrealistic attitude.
Americans have seen our share of international crises involving Russia. What's unusual about this one, at least from a domestic political perspective, is that we now see prominent Republican officials publicly expressing admiration for Russian leadership.

The Ukraine crisis is just the latest example of President Barack Obama being outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Sunday. "Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don't think it's even close" the Michigan Republican said on "Fox News Sunday."  "They've been running circles around us." [...] "And, by the way, the big one that started this was the absolute retreat on our missile defense system in Poland and Czechoslovakia."

First, Czechoslovakia hasn't actually been a country for the last couple of decades. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee should probably know that.
Second, remember all the prominent Democrats praising Putin's strategic acumen over the Bush/Cheney administration when Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008? All the Dems who hit the Sunday shows to say Putin is "running circles around us"? No? That's probably because it never happened. Indeed, if it had, the praise likely would have become a controversy unto itself.
And third, Rogers is impressed with Putin for reasons that don't make any sense.
Kevin Drum characterized the Michigan Republican's comments as "nuts."

*Has Rogers even been following events in Ukraine lately? The reason Putin has sent troops into Crimea is because everything he's done over the past year has blown up in his face. This was a last-ditch effort to avoid a fool's mate, not some deeply-calculated bit of geopolitical strategery. [...] [H]aving failed utterly thanks to ham-handed tactics on his part, he's finally decided on one last desperation move. Not because the West is helpless to retaliate, but because he's simply decided he's willing to bear the cost. It's a sign of weakness, not a show of strength. It's the price he's paying for his inability to control events.

This is what I was trying to get at last week, though Kevin clearly said it better. Putin keeps trying various strategic moves, which fail, which in turn forces the Russian leader into more reckless moves, which also fail.
Invading Ukrainian territory isn't the action of a grand master chess player; it's the action of a child throwing the chess board into the air because he doesn't like the way the game is going.
Why the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is so impressed with this is a mystery.