I wrote here about Vladimir Putin and his foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s brilliant diplomatic coup in coaxing President Obama and his Secretary of State Kerry into a box in Syria and then rescuing Obama and Kerry from their self-imposed dilemma by offering to have Syria give up its “weapons of mass destruction.”   Next Putin successfully held what were the most impressive Winter Olympics ever seen - in a summer resort!  He is definitely on a roll.

Now the West is railing against Putin’s attempt to regain the old Russian/Soviet Empire by wresting Crimea from Ukraine.  But look at the script.  Ukraine is in a dire economic condition.  It sought relief by negotiating an alliance with the European Union which would eventually lead to full membership.  The EU said yes but first Ukraine had to undertake some EU style austerity measures.  Worse, there was no offer of immediate aid.  Enter Putin who pulled a rabbit out of his hat by offering $15 billion in aid to Ukraine with the only condition being to drop the EU outreach and come closer to the Russian economic alliance.  Ukraine’s president considered Russia’s “bird in the hand” offer as being better than the “birds in the bush” offer of the EU so opted for the Russian bid.  The pro-West crowd in Ukraine saw they held a losing hand so took to the streets to protest the government’s rule.  The protests led to open revolt with the result being to throw out the elected president and his government and install in their place a pick-up team representing a wide range of interests.

Putin responded by spreading the Russian military, that are under international agreement allowed to protect Russia’s military establishment in Crimea, principally its huge naval base at Sevastopol, to control all of Crimea.  With this protection in place the Crimean Parliament voted to move back to Russia and called for a referendum by the people of Crimea on this move in about a week’s time.

The West went apoplectic over this “naked Russian aggression” and an “illegal act” by the Crimean Parliament, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Ukrainian Parliament had acted “illegally” in tossing out its president and installing a new government without benefit of a referendum by the people of Ukraine.   Once again President Obama and Secretary Kerry jumped in over their head by calling for “action” against the Russians.  And, wonders never cease, the EU has come up with a $15 billion aid program for Ukraine.

So what has happened?  In a masterful display of strategic and tactical moves Putin has gotten the EU to cough up $15 billion for Ukraine, thus obviating his need to provide that amount of aid for Ukraine, and for his efforts he will gain Crimea for Russia.   In other words without spending a nickle in aid he has cornered the West into providing aid for Ukraine and gained a symbolic victory for Russia.  Now do you understand why I call him “Putin the Magician?”