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Smart takes
March 11, 2014
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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

Katrina at 10
2:02 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Saturday, New Orleans residents commemorated the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people and cost $151 billion in damage across the region.

"We saved each other," Mayor Mitch Landrieu told dignitaries at a memorial for the unidentified and unclaimed dead, The Associated Press reports. "New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken."

Residents and activists gathered for speeches and a parade in the city's Lower 9th Ward at the site of one levee that had broken. In Mississippi, also hit hard by Katrina, coastal church bells rang out to remember one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, who was in office when the storm hit, both visited New Orleans in the days leading up to the anniversary. Julie Kliegman

Immigration
12:51 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Presidential hopeful and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke to a crowd in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Saturday about the need to crack down on legal immigration enforcement.

He rejected competitor Donald Trump's idea to build a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexican border, but suggested if he becomes president, he'd use FedEx's package tracking strategies to more closely track people entering the country:

The minute they come in, we lose track of them? So here's what I'm going to do as president: I'm going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, to come work for the government for three months at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people. We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in, and then when your time is up... however long your visa is, then we go get you. We tap you on the shoulder and say, "Thanks for coming. Time to go." [The Star-Ledger]

While this isn't the first time Republicans have used FedEx rhetoric to talk immigration policy, Smith's daughter, Samantha, serves as Christie's campaign spokeswoman.

Christie also criticized President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers on Saturday, calling the U.S. under Obama's oversight "a nation of lawlessness," The Star-Ledger reports. Julie Kliegman

findings
12:25 p.m. ET

Researchers at an archaeological site in Catalonia, Spain, discovered an inner part of a cave that may have been used for sleeping, the first such area linked to a Neanderthal site, Archaeology reports.

The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology archaeologists say the sleeping area found at Abric Romaní is distinctive from other parts of the cave because it features a lower density of artifacts. They also found a hole near a wall that may have been used to heat water 60,000 years ago.

The potential bedroom and water-heating system were found among 10,000 Neanderthal artifacts researchers found at the site in August. Julie Kliegman

Quotables
11:55 a.m. ET
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Tom Ford

In a tease for her upcoming Elle UK cover story, Miley Cyrus said she identifies as pansexual, which means she considers herself attracted to people of all gender identities.

"I'm very open about it — I'm pansexual," she said. "But I'm not in a relationship. I'm 22, I'm going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I'm with."

The pop star and upcoming VMAs host had described her fluid sexuality similarly, without using the word pansexual, in a not-safe-for-work photoshoot with Paper Magazine in June.

"I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age," she said. "Everything that's legal, I'm down with. Yo, I'm down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don't relate to being boy or girl, and I don't have to have my partner relate to boy or girl."

You might say she's just being Miley. Julie Kliegman

Uber Empire
11:22 a.m. ET
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Uber hired the two men who gained notoriety after remotely hacking a moving Jeep Cherokee in July, the company said Friday. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek will join the company's Pittsburgh-based Advanced Technologies Center, which has been upping its research on the technology behind self-driving cars, Reuters reports.

Miller and Valasek join the same center where Uber hired away dozens of Carnegie Mellon University's top scientists and researchers earlier in 2015. The company, valued at more than $50 billion, also announced Tuesday a partnership with the University of Arizona focused on mapping research and safety technology for self-driving cars.

After Miller and Valasek exposed the vulnerability in a hardware chip that connects Fiat Chrysler cars to the internet, the company recalled 1.4 million vehicles. Julie Kliegman

drake isn't worthy
10:54 a.m. ET
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For what's believed to be the first time in history, the U.S. Open women's singles final sold out before the men's singles final, ESPN reports.

There's one reason why: Serena Williams. A victory for the tennis goddess and upcoming tournament's top seed would make history by completing her 2015 Grand Slam sweep, a feat no woman has accomplished since Steffi Graf in 1988. Williams has 21 Slam titles to her name, just three fewer than record holder Margaret Court.

Seats for the women's final, which doesn't even sell out some years, are trading at three times their usual value, according to the United States Tennis Association.

Open play begins Monday. Julie Kliegman

what a pair
10:34 a.m. ET

A ghost of Republican Party past sat down with its current presidential frontrunner Friday night. Former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, both known for their colorful, unpredictable sound bites, were surprisingly tame throughout the One America News Network interview, which was more lovefest than hard-hitting policy chat.

"They need someone to fire all those political correct police," Palin said by way of introducing Trump. Trump later called Palin a "terrific person" and also praised her family. He's said before he'd love for Palin to join his administration should he win office.

In between compliments, the two criticized media coverage of conservative candidates, the country's tax code, and treatment of veterans. Watch the softball exchange below. Julie Kliegman

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