It would be amusing, if it were not so disgusting, to watch elements of the Obama-hating right (e.g. Steve Sailer) and the American-power-hating left (Tikkun, The Nation) agree in fawning over Vladimir Putin as he treats the solemn agreement under which Russian guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in return for Ukrainian de-nuclearization, as a mere scrap of paper. It’s perfectly OK for Russia to seize Crimea by force because Crimea should never have been part of Ukraine. And it’s perfectly OK for Russia to seize territory inside Ukraine, using soldiers not wearing insignia, which alone makes their actions war crimes, because … shut up, he explained.

Both sides agree that it would be rude to compare what Putin just did in the Crimea to what Hitler did in the Sudetenland: not actually false, you see, just impolite. And since people who are impolite to Col. Putin have way of encountering dioxin or polonium-210, I suppose they are right to urge caution. (The prime suspects in both cases escaped from justice in Ukraine and the UK by sheltering in Russia, which refuses to extradite them.)

So here’s a compromise everyone should be happy with. Putin and his strange-bedfellow supporters agree that shooting down demonstrators in Kiev was No Big Deal, and the substance behind the protests should be ignored, because they were the work “Nazis” backed by “US/EU money.” (Or alternatively, that they were shot by “fascist provocateurs.”) Sounds to me a lot like Bull Connor complaining that all those people he set his attack dogs on had been stirred up by “Communists” and “outside agitators.” (He was right about that, of course. The Civil Rights movement in the South got both money and leadership from the North, and some of the people involved were in fact Communists. So what?) The notion that the shooters were protesters rather than their opponents echoes the National Review theory that the Selma church bombing was the work of “a provocateur, a Communist or a crazed Negro.”

So instead of comparing Putin to Hitler, am I allowed to compare him to George Wallace?

Footnote Of course, there is in fact Nazi-style activity going on in Ukraine. They’re even burning books, including the history of the Ukrainian famine engineered by Stalin. Of course, these particular book-burners are supporting Putin, but let’s not quibble over details.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.