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
A Home Depot employee in Staten Island, N.Y., sparked death threats by wearing an "America Was Never Great" hat to work, The New York Times reports. Krystal Lake, 22, says she wore the hat after several co-workers wore pro–Donald Trump pins. "The point of the hat was to say that America needs change and improvement," Lake said. A company spokesman said Lake has been told never to wear the hat again.
After much back and forth, Donald Trump released a statement Friday saying definitively that he would not engage Sen. Bernie Sanders in a debate. The two camps had traded comments in the media after Trump said on Wednesday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live show that he'd debate the Democratic candidate, and Sanders agreed. There had been discussions of doing the debate for charity before Trump put the kibosh on the whole thing, as only Trump can:
Trump says he WILL NOT debate Bernie: " it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher" pic.twitter.com/EhUgIx2Nt5
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) May 27, 2016
Sad! Kimberly Alters
The CEO of a New York-based technology investment company has offered to put forward $10 million to charity if Donald Trump will debate Bernie Sanders.
Trump has flip-flopped on his promise to debate Sanders, although he eventually said during a Thursday speech that he would do so only if someone paid $10 million to a "women's health charity." Sanders has also appeared to be up for a debate, asking for the matchup to take place in the largest stadium possible.
Traction and Scale CEO Richie Heckler told BuzzFeed News that his company would be willing to put forward the money if they were given the opportunity to host the debate. Heckler, who supported a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, aims to hold the event on June 6, the day before the California primary, and in the largest venue in California that can be secured. Heckler said "the format we're going to use will be different," and that the debate would be "a very powerful change to the process."
It would certainly be unusual, anyway — neither Trump nor Sanders have been officially nominated by their respective parties. In fact, Sanders looks more than likely to lose in July to Hillary Clinton, who has so far turned down his requests for another Democratic debate. Jeva Lange
Though Dr. Henry Heimlich developed his life-saving maneuver way back in 1974, it wasn't until this week that he actually put it to the test in an emergency. On Monday evening at his retirement home in Cincinnati, the 96-year-old retired chest surgeon saved someone who was choking with his namesake treatment for what he says is the first time ever.
During dinner, Heimlich noticed fellow resident Patty Ris, 87, suddenly begin to choke on a piece of hamburger. While staff rushed over to help her, it was Heimlich who ultimately stepped in to help. "I did the Heimlich Maneuver — of course,” Heimlich told The Guardian. “She was going to die if she wasn't treated. I did it, and a piece of food with some bone in it flew out of her mouth."
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) May 27, 2016
Ris joined the ranks of the tens of thousands of lives, including former President Ronald Reagan, that have been saved in the U.S. thanks to Dr. Heimlich's maneuver. "When I used it, and she recovered quickly," Heimlich said, "it made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives." Becca Stanek
Customers in a Didsbury, England, coffee shop began to "freak out" after they heard shouting and "gunshot-like bangs," prompting one man to dive head-first out a window to escape, Metro reports. The Costa Coffee patrons believed they were experiencing a terrorist attack — although the sounds turned out to be noisy school children banging their trays downstairs.
"It sounded like shots were being fired. It was not just me who thought that," one woman who asked not to be named by The Manchester Evening News said. "Other people were running around trying to get out on to the balcony but the door was locked. I think that's why the man went for one of the front windows. When I looked round I could only see his feet hanging from the window. He was climbing out head first. To be honest I wasn't surprised by his reaction because we all thought an attack was happening. It sounded like there was a shooting downstairs. I was expecting people wearing balaclavas and carrying guns to come upstairs."
The man who jumped out the window may have broken his arm, and was taken to the hospital. Costa Coffee wishes him a speedy recovery. Jeva Lange
"There are a number of things in life that can calm down just about anybody; burning wood fires, and hanging out in hot tubs are chief among them," says J.D. Digiovanni at HiConsumption.com.
The Soak outdoor wood-fired hot tub ($4,450), created by a Canadian design and fabrication firm, combines both pleasures. Made from marine-grade aluminum, stainless steel, and red cedar, this tub for two heats up via a wood fire or propane. The tub's Bauhaus-inspired modernist lines aren't what you expect from a wood-fired tub, but the look is "a great fit for almost any backyard."
Verizon reached a deal Friday with two labor unions representing 39,000 employees, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has announced. The four-year agreement is now being put into writing, and the employees are expected to go back to work next week.
The deal puts an end to six weeks of strikes over pay and pension cuts. Between 35,000 and 39,000 Verizon employees walked off their jobs in April, making it the largest strike in U.S. history.
"This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement. I expect that workers will be back on the job next week,” Perez said in a statement. Jeva Lange