- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vladimir Putin has gone from playground brat to Kremlin boss

It’s not often we go overseas to find the Liberal Bully Of The Week. To be fair, though, this guy has been going out of his way to win this award — and it seems this is as good a week as any to give it to him.

Bullying has been a specialty of Vladimir Putin his entire life. Even as a boy, he likes to say he was “a bully, not a pioneer.” He was a kid with a quick temper and skills in martial arts — what a combo for a future KGB leader.

There are allegations of invading sovereign nations, bribery, corruption, wife-beating, putting political enemies in jail and so on and so on and so on.

This past week, though, has been exceptional even for him. While having face-to-face talks with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, it was announced that Russian troops “accidently strayed into Ukraine.” I can hear Mr. Putin now doing his best Sgt. Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes” impression “Nyet, I know nothing, nothing.”

Now that the U.S. State Department is finally acknowledging that a stealthy Russian invasion of Ukraine is underway, it has also admitted to knowing about exchanges of long-range fire between Russian troops and Ukrainian forces going back for weeks. I guess the Russians just “accidentally” started lobbing artillery shells and missiles after they accidentally crossed the border. We’ve all done that after our GPS devices screw up and get us lost, right? Launching a few missiles before I stop and ask for directions always makes me feel better.

Mr. Putin is using the tactics of the great military of the past Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and even Muhammad: Negotiate when you are weak (or looking bad in world opinion) and strike when the enemy isn’t prepared.

This is so clearly Mr. Putin’s game plan that few are buying it this time, thankfully. Of course, there’s still the question of what anyone is going to do about it. Ukrainian government forces were in the process of defeating Russian-backed separatists, but now that they’re up against heavily armed, well-trained, numerically superior Russian regulars, they’re falling back. A New York Times reporter watched a unit of retreating Ukrainian soldiers shoot past in a bullet-riddled bus with purple curtains flapping out of the windows. Mr. Putin’s bullying tactics are going to work just fine, if there aren’t any hall monitors on duty to keep him from beating up the smaller kids and taking their lunch money.

You might be thinking it’s a stretch to lump Mr. Putin in with past “liberal” bullies, but what’s the big difference between his economic platform and President Obama’s? They share a keen appreciation for cronyism. They’re both fans of heavy surveillance. Mr. Putin is a bit less enthusiastic about executive orders, but then, he’s got the kind of rubber-stamp legislature Mr. Obama only dreams about.

For not really looking for peace in peace talks, for encouraging fear, for continuing to spread communism and war, and for thinking we all are stupid — with bonus points for being an all-around lousy human being — Vladimir Putin is the Liberal Bully Of TheWeek.

Rusty Humphries, a nationally syndicated talk-radio host, is a contributor to The Washington Times.