Again With the Lines: Putin’s Appetite Comes With the Eating

Putin dramatically escalated the situation in Crimea over the last 24 hours, sending in troops to occupy airports, blockading roads, surrounding Ukrainian border posts, and cutting off phone and internet communications.

Russia denies its troops are involved.  What, is this the Immaculate Occupation?  Or are these aliens that descended on Crimea?  (One story is that these are actually Russian private contractors, rather than military troops.  But they are still taking the Tsar’s ruble.  That’s all that matters.)

And I am sure you will be shocked, but the US response is feckless.

The White House drew another line.  I kid you not:

“We are watching to see … whether or not Russia is doing anything that might be crossing the line in any way,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday. “We made clear that the U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the sovereignty of Ukraine. We have made clear to Russia that we believe it would be a grave mistake to intervene in any way. We obviously have and will continue to have direct communication with Russian government officials.”

Again with the lines.  Now Putin knows we’ll do nothing.

Later, Carney even refused to name Russia: he said an “outside country” had occupied parts of Crimea.  Maybe it was Albania. Or Andorra.

Kerry had his 1000th conversation with Lavrov: the first 999 were so productive! Just ask the Syrians.

He tweeted afterwards that he told Lavrov that “territorial integrity and economic stability are in everyone’s interest.” Lavrov-and Putin-quite obviously disagree, if they are the ones violating territorial integrity, and have the track record to prove it.

Later Samantha Power said that the US was gravely concerned.  Gravely is about right, because our credibility is being buried day after day.  Obama then appeared, and read a brief statement.  He didn’t even make it to “gravely”: he is just “deeply” concerned.  He said that Russia faced unspecified costs, and like Kerry, presumed to lecture Putin on what was in Russia’s interests, even though Russia’s actions clearly indicate it takes a very different view of those interests.

In my opinion, Putin is pushing to see how far he can go.  He is getting no pushback, so he will continue to push more.  Obama certainly shows no appetite to push back.

And speaking of appetite, there’s a Russian proverb that the appetite comes with the eating.  He has taken a big bite out of the Crimea, and as of yet, there is nothing to stop him for coming back for seconds and thirds.  Certainly not the US, and certainly not Europe (especially Germany).

As I said throughout.  Ukrainians are on their own.  The feckless West will do nothing of substance to drag Putin away from the table, and he will feast on Ukraine piece by piece in the coming weeks and months.

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About Craig Pirrong 238 Articles

Affiliation: University of Houston

Dr Pirrong is Professor of Finance, and Energy Markets Director for the Global Energy Management Institute at the Bauer College of Business of the University of Houston. He was previously Watson Family Professor of Commodity and Financial Risk Management at Oklahoma State University, and a faculty member at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and Washington University.

Professor Pirrong's research focuses on the organization of financial exchanges, derivatives clearing, competition between exchanges, commodity markets, derivatives market manipulation, the relation between market fundamentals and commodity price dynamics, and the implications of this relation for the pricing of commodity derivatives. He has published 30 articles in professional publications, is the author of three books, and has consulted widely, primarily on commodity and market manipulation-related issues.

He holds a Ph.D. in business economics from the University of Chicago.

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