Ukraine Approves EU Deal; Putin, Where’s Thy Sting?

As Brother Benen points out today, the unanimous approval by the Ukrainian Parliament of a deal that will lead to EU membership–the original cause, one might remember, of the revolt against former president Viktor Yanukovich, who rejected a similar measure–not only calls into question Vladimir Putin’s supposed mastery of the region, but also the constant invidious comparisons U.S. conservatives have made between the all-powerful Putin and the weakling Obama:

[A]s the international crisis grew more serious, Republicans in the United States not only praised Putin, they used their affection for Putin as a way to condemn President Obama at the same time. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) gushed, “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles.” Sen. Ted Cruz recently added, “Sadly, the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat.”

A Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted Putin to be “head of the United States,” at least temporarily.

And yet, revisiting a piece from last month, let’s pause to take stock of what’s transpired. In case the right has lost sight of this, the Russian president has made a series of bold moves this year, and all of them were fairly disastrous for his country. Russia’s international standing (outside of conservative circles) is in shambles; Putin’s policies have led to an economic recession; and the conflict with Ukraine hasn’t advanced Russia’s interests at all.

As Thomas Friedman recently put it, “Let’s add it up: Putin’s seizure of Crimea has weakened the Russian economy, led to China getting a bargain gas deal, revived NATO, spurred Europe to start ending its addiction to Russian gas and begun a debate across Europe about increasing defense spending. Nice work, Vladimir. That’s why I say the country Putin threatens most today is Russia.”

And today, the one thing Putin hoped to avoid most – a Ukrainian political/trade pact with the EU – is exactly what’s happened.

I doubt we’ll hear any mea culpas from American conservatives. Most of them don’t really give a damn about Ukraine, and have only used the Macho Bear image of Putin to diminish the perceived stature of Obama, the still point of their turning world. In the Right’s demonology, it’s really not one thing after another; it’s one thing over and over again.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.