Were it not for the hundreds killed, it would also be comical the ridiculous series of events Vladimir Putin’s reckless behavior led up to this morning. For months Putin has been playing with fire, making trouble and having it work mainly to his advantage. Certainly in the context of Russian history and nationalist aspiration reclaiming the Crimea is a vast accomplishment. But the whole thing blew up in his face today in a way, and with repercussions I don’t think – even with all wall to wall coverage – we can quite grasp.
Find extremists and hot-heads of the lowest common denominator variety, seed them with weaponry only a few militaries in the world possess – and, well, just see what happens. What could go wrong?
The audio tapes posted by The New York Times might as well be from some future Russia-based version of Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show, a comical rendering of rustics and morons stumbling into an event of vast carnage and international consequence mainly because they’re hotheads and idiots – the kind of people no one in their right minds would give world class weaponry to. It’s like finding some white supremacist/militia types on their little compound in the inter-Mountain west and giving them world class missile launchers and heavy armaments.
Europe and even America never cared that much about Crimea. It is difficult to dislodge an annexation when a majority of the population likely really did support it. And the Europeans, as long as the big red lines weren’t being crossed, are too tied to Russian fuels and their myriad other concerns to care that much about mischief on Ukraine’s eastern border. But having a passenger plane, filled with EU citizens, shot out of the sky above what is presumed to be the bubble of first world safety that is “Europe” is a game changing event not only in the Ukraine crisis but much more broadly about Putin’s role in Europe generally.
In a paradoxical way, I think the future ramifications of this are almost greater because it is about Russia’s recklessness and bumbling than it would be if it were more clearly a matter of intent. This is a f’-up on Putin’s part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up. Malign intent is one thing. So is aggression. But goofs of this magnitude by someone who controls a massive military arsenal and nuclear weapons are in a way more threatening.