I make no secret of the fact that, when it comes to the Ukraine crisis, that I'm on Team Putin. For a number of reasons:
1. The West, in the forms of the EU and its military arm, NATO, has been poking at him for years. We provoked him openly when, at the NATO conference in Bucharest, we openly blabbed about both Georgia and Ukraine becoming part of NATO.
Not a smart move.
2. We removed his stooge, Yanukovich, in a coup romanticized in the West as the "Orange Revolution" and replaced him with our stooge, Yushchenko. Up til then, Russia had been just fine with Ukraine, but removing a friendly leader and replacing him with one overly aligned toward the West, both economically and strategically, was a provocation. The French have a proverb, "It's a vicious animal that attacks when cornered." Can't blame a man for brinksmanship when you push him to the brink.
Now, imagine that China deposed U.S.-friendly regimes in Canada and Mexico and replaced those leaders with China-friendly ones, bound Canada and Mexico together in a web of economic and strategic agreements, and then installed a military presence in both Canada and Mexico. Which is precisely what we did to Russia. How well do you think the U.S. would respond to it?
3. Even if he does mount a full-scale invasion, he won't stay. He was around for Russia's turn in the barrel in Afghanistan, and he's smart enough to have watched the U.S.'s misadventures in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya to know that getting bogged down in a war of occupation when people don't want you there is a really, really bad idea. He'll shoot up the place and wreck it from the inside, but he won't stay. He didn't stay in Georgia, either. He declared war, invaded, and left after making sure Georgia wouldn't be joining NATO anytime soon.
4. I like the Russians, anyhow. I like the fact that they didn't welcome the Nazis with bread and salt as the Ukes did during World War II (granted, they had extremely good reason to hate the Soviets, I'll give them that) and I like the fact that Putin isn't a raging anti-Semite, as is an uncomfortably large percentage of the Western-aligned Ukrainians. I also dislike the fact that the West has been systematically screwing them over since 1849.
5. There's no earthly reason for us to give a damn about what happens in Putin's backyard any more than there's any reason for him to give a damn about what's happening in ours.
6. Purely pragmatically, I'm more worried about the Chinese than I am the Russians, and I just can't see the logic of driving him into their arms.
Anyhow, practically alone of everyone I know, I'm pulling for Russia in this one. I won't debate for an instant that Vladimir Putin is a sinister tyrant, an enemy of liberal democracy, a louse, a wretch, an assassin, and an all-around miserable son of a bitch. But unlike most Americans, I can keep two ideas in my head at the same time. It's difficult, but doable. Try it.
And, as a wise man once wrote, "Give me a rogue so long as he be a barefaced rogue." Putin's never pretended to be anything other than what he is, or to want anything other than what he wants, and I can dig that.
So anyhow, as far as things go, I'm pretty pro-Russian and not shy about saying it. But even I was surprised when a few old fellow-carousers from the intelligence services sent me, via diplomatic courier, this photo in answer to a few inquiries about where my younger sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., had been for a couple of weeks prior to the fun we're enjoying in Ukraine right now...