As the old song goes, “you got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Vladimir Putin should have heeded that advice but as it often is with megalomaniacs they usually lack the self restraint needed to quit while they are ahead. While the West seemed content to let Putin carve Crimea out of Ukraine via a referendum that would have shamed a Chicago ward heeler, his continued complicity in the rebellion in Eastern Ukraine may have been a bridge too far.
Two events have transpired that make it likely that Putin is in for some tough days ahead.
Probably the most important event was Putin’s reception at the G20 meeting in Brisbane. Putin arrived expecting to be greeted by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. What he got was not expected:
The Russian president stepped onto the runway at Brisbane airport on Friday night with dozens of staffers.
Federal Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert, Queensland Governor Paul De Jersey and the Governor-General’s Secretary Mark Fraser greeted him.
Putin, who has the status consciousness of any nouveau riche social climber, was not happy about being greeted by rather junior officials. At the meeting itself he approached one of his harshest critics (that would not be Barack Obama) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He seemed intent on creating a photo opportunity for domestic consumption:
Putin approached Harper and stuck out his hand to shake the Canadian prime minister’s, said MacDonald.
After months of public condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military support for separatist rebels in Ukraine, Harper accepted the handshake with a blunt message.
The prime minister said: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” recounted MacDonald.
The Gothic atmosphere continued and Putin departed early:
Vladimir Putin quit the G20 summit in Brisbane early saying he needed to get back to work in Moscow on Monday after enduring hours of browbeating by a succession of Western leaders urging him to drop his support for secessionists in eastern Ukraine.
That was the opening act. The high point was a speech given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
One thing we know for sure about Angela Merkel: she takes time to ponder her decisions and she weighs her words carefully. So the speech the German chancellor gave in Australia, a few days after Vladimir Putin stormed out of the G20, …read more