Thursday, March 6, 2014

Putin is not crazy. Frustrating, unpredictable. Not crazy.

The Russian president may be calculating, sources say, even miscalculating. And worried


Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse in southern Siberia's Tuva region August 3, 2009. Putin, a judo black belt who has flown in a fighter aircraft and shot a Siberian tiger in the wild, plunged into the depths of Lake Baikal aboard a mini-submersible on Saturday in a mission that added a new dimension to his macho image. (REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin)
President Obama has called Vladimir Putin “the bored kid in the back of the classroom,” putting on an unsmiling, tough-guy “shtick.” Hillary Clinton just compared the Russian president to Hitler. The State Department says Putin’s reasoning on Ukraine amounts to “two plus two equals five.” Republican House Speaker Boehner branded him a “thug.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said he is “in another world.” And George W. Bush complained that debating policy with him was “like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong” and called him “cold-blooded” to his face.

Putin’s decision to respond to the ouster of a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine by deploying troops across Crimea and threatening to send them into eastern Ukraine has inflamed already painful relations with the United States. Some (wrongly) see the birth of a new Cold War. And some wonder whether the judo-loving former KGB colonel with the nuclear arsenal and the unsettling fondness for being photographed shirtless might be insane.

He isn’t – at least not according to senior Obama aides, career military and intelligence officials, and Rep. Adam Schiff, a top Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“I don’t think we’re dealing with someone mentally unstable, or delusional in a psychiatrics way, in a psychiatric analysis way,” Schiff, who represents California’s 28th district, told Yahoo News in a telephone interview.

“At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we can predict everything he’s going to do,” Schiff underlined.

American officials like to quote Putin's claim that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” They’re less keen to reflect on his comment just a few weeks later that “those who do not regret the collapse of the Soviet Union have no heart, and those that do regret it have no brain.”

That doesn’t sound like someone looking to put relations with the West back in the deep freeze of the Cold War, a unique clash of ideologies that ranged all over the world. But Putin hasn’t been shy about declaring that he wants to restore Russia’s badly eroded great-power status, calling for a “Eurasian Union” with the land of the tsars at its heart.

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