The key to solving the Ukraine tinder box almost certainly lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That's led a lot of people — including the White House, America's European allies, esteemed members of Congress, and even late-night comedians — to try and figure out just what makes Putin tick. Here are four columnists with some connection to Russia or Ukraine offering their insights into the wily Russian president, and their advice on how to deal with Putin's aggression in Crimea.
Emperor Putin has no clothes
"Vladimir Putin is a man obsessed with an idea: Russia was, is, and always will be a great power," says Mark Nuckols, who teaches law and business in Moscow, at the San Francisco Chronicle. He has publicly mourned the end of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century," and his passion to "ensure that Russia regains its imperial greatness" outweighs all other considerations, including "the well-being of Russian citizens," Nuckols adds. That's why he invaded Georgia, then Ukraine.
[Putin] is driven by misplaced pride, domestic politics, and well-justified fear. His pride and desire to see a Great Power Russia impel him to military adventures and political interference in neighboring states. And these adventures appeal to Russian public opinion, still smarting from the humiliations of the 1990s. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Putin's worldview is simply incompatible with America's
"Putin has enjoyed a stunning variety of incarnations in the American imagination in his nearly 15 years as Russia's leader," and marauding authoritarian dictator is just the latest, says Russian American journalist Masha Gessen at the Los Angeles Times. But he's not insane, and he's not Hitler, she adds.
History's dictators have generally tried to convince themselves and others that they were good people fighting the good fight. But Putin has no positive spin for his aggression — or his actions in general... He believes that all governments would like to jail their opponents and invade their neighbors, but most political leaders, most of the time, lack the courage to act on these desires... For American culture, which relies heavily on a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity, this is an impossible world view to absorb. It is another world indeed. But that does not make it crazy. [Los Angeles Times]
Putin needs an exit strategy
John McCarron, writing at the Chicago Tribune, offers an opinion based on his time in the Navy during the Cold War. McCarron's solution: "Give Russia a way out."
Let them save some face. After all, it's Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama, who is caught in a wringer.... It would be a huge mistake to try to back the Russian bear into a corner, to bluff and to bluster, to escalate Cold War-style with increasingly harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions... Putin needs — Russians need — a nonembarrassing way around this mess they've made for themselves. [Chicago Tribune]
Putin's advantage is temporary
Putin didn't invade Ukraine because he thinks Obama is week, says Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times. He doesn't much care. "We don't have much leverage because Putin cares far more about Ukraine than he does about being in the G-8." But instead of panicking about Russia's resurgence, "let's also recognize that, in the long run, it's Putin who has stumbled here." Crimea will just be a headache for Russia, and the rest of Ukraine is now solidly in "the West's orbit."
[W]estern Ukrainians look across the border at a thriving Poland, now firmly embedded in Europe, and see that as a far better model for the future. Likewise, in a couple of decades, Russians may well look over the border at a thriving, European Ukraine and want that model for themselves as well. So be strong, Senators Graham and McCain: Putin's advantage is temporary. [NY Times] Peter Weber
The State Department marked 81 of more than 500 Hillary Clinton emails released Saturday as confidential, The Hill reports. Another three were upgraded to "secret" status, and none were marked "top secret," the highest designation.
None of the emails released Saturday had been marked confidential when they were originally sent.
The State Department still has more than 3,000 emails to release from Clinton's private server, which she used as secretary of state. Julie Kliegman
In case the Rubik's Cube isn't already challenging enough to solve, one puzzle maker just made it physically demanding, too. Tony Fisher constructed a monstrous cube, spanning just over 5 feet in either direction and weighing in at about 224 pounds.
Fisher believes his creation could be the biggest functional Rubik's Cube in the world, and he hopes to get it recognized as such by Guinness World Records.
On his YouTube page, he notes that the cube broke shortly after he shot the surreal video below, but he's working on getting it fixed. Julie Kliegman
Singer Katy Perry has attended the Grammys for eight years straight. But for Monday's show, she's doing something a little different — watching from home, she told The New York Times.
Perry will be rooting for The Weeknd "in my pajamas, eating matzo ball soup. No makeup, glad I'm not in a corset. Vicks cream on."
With 13 nominations, Perry has yet to win a Grammy of her own. Julie Kliegman
Refugees are arriving in Europe by boat at a faster rate in 2016 than at the beginning of 2015, the United Nations Refugee Agency said in a report released Friday.
In the first six weeks of 2016, more than 80,000 refugees have arrived in Europe. That's more than in the first four months of 2015.
Many European countries, including Turkey, say they're struggling to keep taking in refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in Syria.
More than 400 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean so far in 2016. Julie Kliegman
Across 10 programming languages, women are considered better coders than men, a new study published by computer science researchers shows.
Researchers examined 3 million pull requests, or contributions to projects, on GitHub, an open-source software community, and found that code written by women was accepted at 78.6 percent to men's 74.6 percent.
But there's a catch, The Guardian reports. Women's work was only accepted more than men's if their GitHub profiles were gender neutral. When users clearly identified as women, their acceptance rate was lower than that of their male peers. Julie Kliegman
More than 5,000 pregnant women in Colombia have been infected by the Zika virus, the country's national health institute said Saturday. In the nation, 31,555 people in total have the virus, Reuters reports.
The Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency, is thought to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect. So far there are no cases of microcephaly linked to Zika in Colombia.
The mosquito-borne virus, which has been traced back to Brazil, has spread to more than 30 countries. Julie Kliegman
The mother of Dylan Klebold, one of two boys who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999, gave her first televised interview Friday. Speaking to ABC's Diane Sawyer, Sue Klebold said she missed warning signs her son was depressed.
"I think we like to believe that our love and our understanding is protective, and that 'if anything were wrong with my kids, I would know,' but I didn't know, and I wasn't able to stop him from hurting other people," she said.
Klebold's interview, which you can watch here, comes as she promotes her Feb. 15 memoir, A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. Julie Kliegman