Politicians lie all the time, or so the conventional wisdom has it. What is rare is a politician who gets caught in a lie. What is rarer still is a politician who admits to his lie. Vladimir Putin is that rare fellow. Last night, a trailer for a documentary called “The Path to the Motherland” aired showing him saying in February 2014, “We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia.” Yet for months afterwards, he maintained it was all a spontaneous uprising. He has shown his true colors so clearly here that no one can possibly mistake him for an honest man.
The night of February 22-23, 2014, President Putin met with his security people to discuss the rescuing of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. President Putin is shown on film saying, “I invited the leaders of our special services and the defence ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, who would simply have been liquidated,” he said.
“We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, ‘We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia’,” President Putin said.
What is important is that that first actions in Crimea against Kyiv occurred on February 27, when pro-Moscow gunmen took over the local parliament and other important buildings. That is, the “spontaneous uprising” began 4 days after President Putin made his remark. Clearly, certain members of the security forces took that remark to be an order.
The fact is that Russia had been planning this for years. Every nation has military contingency plans. This is only prudent because, in a crisis, the brass hats don’t want to have to tell a president or prime minister that they can get a plan together in a few weeks. They need to have it right away.
The Christian Science Monitor stated, “A Dec. 7, 2006 cable from the US Embassy in Kiev, leaked to Wikileaks by former US soldier Chelsea Manning, outlined the ways in which Russia — alarmed by NATO expansion to the east and afraid of Ukraine possibly joining the European Union — was setting the table in Crimea. Ukraine’s so-called Orange Revolution, which brought a government to power that looked west more than east, had happened just two years prior.”
That particular cable, called “The Russia Factor in Crimea — Ukraine’s Soft Underbelly?” reads in part:
Nearly all contended that pro-Russian forces in Crimea, acting with funding and direction from Moscow, have systematically attempted to increase communal tensions in Crimea in the two years since the Orange Revolution. They have done so by cynically fanning ethnic Russian chauvinism towards Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, through manipulation of issues like the status of the Russian language, NATO, and an alleged Tatar threat to ‘Slavs,’ in a deliberate effort to destabilize Crimea, weaken Ukraine, and prevent Ukraine’s movement west into institutions like NATO and the EU. While the total number of pro-Russian activists in Crimea is relatively low, the focus is on shaping public perceptions and controlling the information space, so far with success.
Mr. Putin’s February 23rd order simply put the plan into effect, and now, he’s taking credit for it.