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For Duma, Putin's Policies Are a No-Brainer

Published: July 1, 2014 (Issue # 1817)




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According to the laws of evolution, an unused organ gradually atrophies and finally devolves into a vestigial organ. This law is used to explain why a monkey's tail eventually became nothing more than a tailbone in humans. And in exactly the same way, the Russian parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, has atrophied into a mostly pointless political tailbone in the country's government, becoming a body without a brain.

This was demonstrated when the Federation Council, upon President Vladimir Putin's request, dutifully revoked his authority to send Russian troops into Ukraine. Putin's request was illogical and absurd. When the Federation Council first granted Putin the authority to intervene in Ukraine on March 1, it did not obligate him to use force, but only permitted it. By asking lawmakers to essentially tie his hands, it would seem that Putin does not trust himself to behave rationally. Perhaps he believes that, in a fit of madness, he might order a full-on invasion of eastern Ukraine.

However, during a visit to Austria, Putin awkwardly explained that he had needed the authority granted him on March 1 for the sole purpose of annexing Crimea. Now that Crimea has been incorporated into Russia, the right to use military force is no longer necessary. As Putin openly explained, the Russian military enabled Crimean residents to fully express their will, an impeccably democratic and legal action. Or translated from politico-speak, Russia used its military to grab a sizable chunk of a neighboring state's territory.

Now, in his letter to Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko, Putin argues that the earlier decision to permit the use of troops should be revoked "in order to normalize and resolve the situation in Ukraine's eastern regions." He thus effectively confirms that the earlier threat of the use of Russian troops placed an obstacle in Kiev's path in its attempts to come to terms with the Donbass separatists.

Behind all of these extremely awkward verbal gymnastics, Putin is trying to hide the obvious fact that the Kremlin is frightened by the prospect of further Western sanctions. According to news reports, the U.S. and European Union have already agreed to implement damaging sectoral sanctions should they believe Russia to be working to further destabilize Ukraine.

The only way Putin can delay them is to show that he has no intention of invading Ukraine's eastern and southern regions. The problem is that nobody believes his promises anymore. Recall that just days before Russia annexed Crimea, Putin announced that no such move was under consideration. And now he is attempting to provide convincing evidence that Moscow has no intention of seizing eastern and southern Ukraine. And to that end, he had to order the entire Federation Council to do a humiliating about-face and force it to revoke his earlier authority.

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