Did Putin Just Blink? Or Is He Just Wiping Off Tears Of Laughter?

"Pooty the Pirate", master of the Black Sea, Crimea, and Barack Obama. The US president wants to shame Pooty (Vladimir Putin) into behaving like what Obama imagines a civilized person should act like—i.e., like some asshole who uses drones to assassinate babies—and to this Pooty has one, reassuring, reminder to Obama: "Hey, I love America, you've provided me with my two main role models, Jack Sparrow, and George W. Bush." Good point.
Apparently, someone called Vladimir Putin last evening and said: “What the fuck are you doing! We just lost $60 billion!”

Yes, that’s how much, according to Reuters, the Moscow stock market lost yesterday, as Russia experienced the first economic impact of its decision to start acting like Putin, the brave and fearsome hunter, going after yet another poor field mouse.

Except this field mouse, Ukraine, was getting ready to start killing Russian invaders. And the field mouse’s banker friends in the West were getting ready to play rough too.

The mice can shoot back? And cancel Pooty’s money-laundering? Just maybe.

Whatever Pooty’s calculations, he ordered Russian troops today to pull back from their western Russian training exercises, generally believed to be staging maneuvers for further invading Ukraine, and sent them back to their bases.

While that is good news, Russian invaders in Crimea stayed put, although they did not launch their threatened assault on Ukrainian military bases in Crimea.

Nevertheless, Reuters reported: “Ukraine's acting president said on Monday that Russia's military presence on the Black Sea peninsula was growing.”

And, just exactly how to assess what Putin is doing, depends on what you think he is trying to achieve. If he is trying to intimidate Ukraine, and bitch-slap Barack Obama (once again), mission accomplished.

Putin is in a strong position now to negotiate a military withdrawal from Crimea that recognizes expanded Russian rights to the peninsula, gives Ukraine strong incentives to stay in the Russian sphere of influence—so Kiev doesn’t get Prague’d by Pooty the Pirate—and which sends a message to everyone that Russia means deadly, Cold War-style, business.

If Putin is playing some kind of rational, Bismarkian, game of power politics, meant to shore up Russia’s interest and influence in its part of the world, that’s one thing.

But if Putin has, as Andrea Merkel suggested, gone mad, and he intends to rebuild the extent of the Soviet Russian empire, then Washington—you've got a big fucking problem.

Let us hope that the old KGB colonel is simply counting up his gold, and making moves that make sense (in the long run) economically. If Pooty the Pirate prevails, then we might be able to use the soft weapon of money and threats of losing it, to make Pooty sail away for a little while.

But for how much longer?

It still seems like the correct move for the EU, for NATO, is to speed up drawing Eastern Europe into the Western fold. And if I were running things (more or less) in Kiev right now, my EU application would already be emailed—or tweeted (why make it complicated?).