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Putin's Chess Moves In Ukraine: Brilliant Tactics, But Bad Strategy?
npr.org ^ | April 23, 2014 | Chris Arnold

Posted on 04/26/2014 11:24:22 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

The game of chess is a national pastime in Russia. And you might say that Vladimir Putin is playing a high-stakes game of geopolitical chess when it comes to Ukraine.

Western leaders are plotting how to counter Putin's latest moves with economic sanctions. So to get some insight into what might come next, we talked to an economist who knows Russia — who is also extremely good at chess.

Putin Playing From A Weak Position

Kenneth Rogoff is a world-renowned economist and professor at Harvard. He was also recognized as a chess prodigy when he was a teenager and became a chess grandmaster when he was 25.

Back in his chess-playing days — and later as an economist — Rogoff made friends across Russia and Ukraine, including Gary Kasparov, the former world chess champion who also ran against Vladimir Putin for president.

"Putin is playing from a very weak position," Rogoff says of Putin's game plan. "But he's very good at it. That doesn't mean he's not going to win. A really strong chess player doesn't need a good position to win."

Putin's position is weak because Russia's economy is weak, Rogoff says: It's too dependent on oil exports, which aren't supporting a decent standard of living for most of the country. Corruption is rampant, and most industries are not competitive with the rest of the world.

Most Russians live in near poverty by U.S. or European standards.

Russia has a large military, but an actual war with the West is extremely unlikely.

"It's going to be an economic war, [as] far as we're willing to push it," Rogoff says of this contest.

Putin's Style Of Play: Good Tactics, Bad Strategy?

In chess, you also want to know your opponent's style of play. So, what kind of player is Putin?

Chess players draw a distinction between strategy and tactics, Rogoff says.

Strategy is "where you're really looking far down the road: If I take the Ukraine, what does that really do for me? Does that make me better off?" he explains.

Tactics, on the other hand, "are very short-term ways to gain pieces and positions," he says. "He's a master of the tactics. He sort of sees a few moves ahead and he's very good at it. But what is the long-term strategy? It's really hard to see."

So far Putin's move to grab Crimea has helped and hurt him. It helped by making him more popular at home in the short term, the former grandmaster says.

But longer term, taking Crimea is probably hurting, he says. Nervous investors are pulling tens of billions of dollars out of Russia. Russia now has to support Crimea, and it is a poor region. The West is imposing economic sanctions, and if they haven't been tough so far, they may get tougher.

That leads Rogoff to think that Putin has not carved out a long-term strategy.

"I just don't see it," he says. "This definitely seems like they're flailing out, looking to try to grab some pieces, grab some territory, without thinking what they're going to do with it.

"Putin's Endgame: Russian Pride

So what is the ultimate goal behind his moves? Rogoff says, "I think there's no question the endgame for him, what he's looking for, is pride."

Rogoff thinks Putin is most interested in returning some greatness to Russia. He says, "I understand he has portraits of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great in his office, and I suppose he would like to have [himself] thought of in those terms — of restoring greatness to Russia."

If Putin's weakness is the economy and his endgame is pride, Rogoff suggests the West should show Putin an opening, something bigger than a few pieces in Ukraine.

"The best thing for us is if Russia starts doing well and feel that they're benefiting from the world order," he says.

What moves should the West make to push Russia in that direction? Rogoff says world leaders are still trying to figure that out.


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Russia
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 04/26/2014 11:24:22 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Weak position. Weaker opponent.


2 posted on 04/26/2014 11:25:57 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Tailgunner Joe

The Russian economy is taking serious hits.


3 posted on 04/26/2014 11:27:25 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Putin doesn’t care if he make his people poor. He can blame the US and his people will believe him. When have economic sanctions ever worked? North Korea? Iran?


4 posted on 04/26/2014 11:30:14 AM PDT by aimhigh (John 14:21)
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To: 1rudeboy

Obama is weak but the USA is strong. One day soon Obama will be nothing but a bad memory.


5 posted on 04/26/2014 11:31:40 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

6 posted on 04/26/2014 11:32:35 AM PDT by smokingfrog ( sleep with one eye open (<o> ---)
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To: aimhigh

As long as the oligarchs remain fat, dumb and happy.


7 posted on 04/26/2014 11:34:30 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Tailgunner Joe

I’m curious...I visited with a woman from the Ukraine going to school here in the US. She has parents and a sister still in the Ukraine and speaks with them by phone regularly. According to her, our news has it all wrong. The Eastern Ukrainians want to re-join Russia and have been begging Putin to come in and rescue them from a murderous Ukraine government. They all speak Russian and want to be a part of Russia, not the Ukraine. I was flabbergasted because it seemed so contrary to all we hear. Has anyone else heard such claims?


8 posted on 04/26/2014 11:35:26 AM PDT by Dutchboy88
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To: Dutchboy88
I can't vouch for that everything you say is true, but I live relatively close to the Eastern border between Ukraine and Russia.

What I can say is that there is no animosity between the people of Ukraine and Russia. I don't know of anyone who wants a war. I have several friends who have family and friends living in Ukraine. They say that what you see on the news is much different than reality.

I would question news reports on BOTH sides. This story was posted by NPR. NPR is nothing but a mouthpiece for the liberal left. It's goal is to make Obama look good.

9 posted on 04/26/2014 11:47:08 AM PDT by Cowboy Bob (They are called "Liberals" because the word "parasite" was already taken.)
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To: aimhigh

Putin is focused on the military viability of Russia.
According to their doctrines in that area, unchallenged control of the Black Sea ports is essential.

As in not optional.

As in Russia could fall to outside armies without this.

People who studied Soviet Doctrine during the cold war predicted this turn of events months ago as the European Union pushed Ukraine for exclusive trade agreements. I was one. Have another “I told you so.” Its free.

Yes, this is a topic that most people (even a great number of military people) do not have the training and the experience to comprehend. Hard to debate a topic beyond one’s scope. None the less, Putin understands,
and he is making the textbook response to the European Union’s moves towards bringing Ukraine into their sphere.

This is not about Putin’s ego.

The Russians would be responding in the same way no matter who was in charge.

Ukraine as an independent buffer state = okay.
Ukraine moving to allign with the European Union = not okay.

Now, there are in this mess people who want to see realistic chances for peace and an independent Ukraine. But they demand that the European Union back off entirely as well.

So here is my point to you:

Yes it would be a better world if Ukraine is free. No, people who are critical of the Russians alone aren’t helping bring that about.

Because there are exactly two ways the Crimean region winds up not part of Russia. Count them.

1. Ukraine remains an entirely independent buffer state not alligned to the western European hegemony.
2. Russia loses an all out war, and all her armies, nuclear weapons, biological horrors, assassins, missiles, etc... have been expended and were not enough.

Those are it.

There is no third way.


10 posted on 04/26/2014 11:53:08 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

He’s seeing what the radar eared twit will do.


11 posted on 04/26/2014 11:54:20 AM PDT by Darksheare (Try my coffee, first one's free..... Even robots will kill for it!)
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To: MrEdd

And it’s not like Putin is Stalin who could simply murder away his opposition.

He knows if he’d let Crimea go, he would be thrown out of office faster than you could say “Brezhnev Doctrine.”


12 posted on 04/26/2014 11:54:35 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Dutchboy88

Did you ask her what language her family speaks at home? I’m betting Russian.


13 posted on 04/26/2014 12:07:50 PM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
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To: Tailgunner Joe

I wish Boehner and McConnell had half the spine Putin has.


14 posted on 04/26/2014 12:07:51 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.)
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To: Cowboy Bob

Excellent advice.

The day I believe anything from NPR, will not come in my life time.

“I would question news reports on BOTH sides. This story was posted by NPR. NPR is nothing but a mouthpiece for the liberal left. It’s goal is to make Obama look good. “


15 posted on 04/26/2014 12:10:07 PM PDT by Grampa Dave ( Herr Obama cannot divert resources from his war on Americans!)
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To: Oldeconomybuyer

They do, just only against conservatives.


16 posted on 04/26/2014 12:11:23 PM PDT by Darksheare (Try my coffee, first one's free..... Even robots will kill for it!)
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To: MrEdd

Well put. I couldn’t agree more.


17 posted on 04/26/2014 12:12:55 PM PDT by Gluteus Maximus
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"That leads Rogoff to think that Putin has not carved out a long-term strategy..."

The Soviets lost an estimated 20 million lives in World War II, roughly 10% of their population. I suspect recreating a buffer between Russia and the armies to the west is a major strategic goal. Then there's the matter of controlling the pipelines that carry oil and gas to large markets. It seems there is no shortage of long term goals available to the Russians.

18 posted on 04/26/2014 12:15:23 PM PDT by concentric circles
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To: Tailgunner Joe

If Putin was up against a master chess player, then it would be bad strategy.

When you know you are not, you can take an otherwise bad series of moves and checkmate the chump you are playing against.

Think of the times you played chess against a newbie and that’s what this is.


19 posted on 04/26/2014 12:16:59 PM PDT by VanDeKoik
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To: MrEdd

No, Sevastopol is not necessary for Russia’s defense. Russia is not under any threat of invasion from any outside armies, nor would losing Crimea affect their military posture to any great degree. Russia is bottled up in the Black Sea by the Turks. Russia’s naval power is focused in the Pacific Ocean. Crimea is a sideshow. This is not about strategy, it is about symbolism. Putin wants to pretend that Russia is still great like in Czarist times, but he can’t admit than the EVIL EMPIRE he loyally served destroyed Russia’s greatness forever. Many, many more Russians must die because of Putin’s insane dreams of empire. Putin’s nukes didn’t save his beloved EVIL EMPIRE, and they won’t save the smaller weaker Neo-Soviet Russia either. Terrorist Russia threatens the world, so it is Russia which must be broken up unto buffer states, not Ukraine.


20 posted on 04/26/2014 12:18:12 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: aimhigh
When have economic sanctions ever worked? North Korea? Iran?

South Africa.

21 posted on 04/26/2014 12:27:54 PM PDT by Steely Tom (How do you feel about robbing Peter's robot?)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
"Putin's Endgame: Russian Pride
That says Putin is a dangerous madman, to be leading Russia in this way.
22 posted on 04/26/2014 12:28:17 PM PDT by Berlin_Freeper
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To: Grampa Dave

Now, now . . . under the new FR standard, presented by our Russian friends, we must be calm and reasonable and respect everything NPR has to say.


23 posted on 04/26/2014 12:29:16 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Steely Tom

No they didn’t. Apartheid was going to fall one way or the other.


24 posted on 04/26/2014 12:31:07 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Tailgunner Joe

You can spew any stupid babbling you want all day long.

What matters here is what the Russians believe.
What the Russians believe is not a secret. Many of the books in the professional reading course for the Marine Corps taught their belief in some detail. At least the books that were on the list in the seventies, eighties, and nineties taught them.

Your theory, or anyone in the west’s theory is entirely irrelevant to what the Russians will do.

The Russians do not care what some western academic thinks.
The Russians do not care what I think.
The Russians do not care what you think.

Not even a tiny bit.

They are going to act in accordance with their established doctrine.

Tell me this, did you personally predict that the Russians were going to send a military force into Ukraine?


25 posted on 04/26/2014 12:31:18 PM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: Dutchboy88

I work with a guy from Eastern Ukraine and what he tells me pretty much coincides with what you heard and posted.


26 posted on 04/26/2014 12:32:18 PM PDT by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Meanwhile, Barak Obama is still looking for his
ass with both hands and a flashlight.


27 posted on 04/26/2014 12:32:22 PM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: MrEdd
Tell me this, did you personally predict that the Russians were going to send a military force into Ukraine?

Dude, I am far from being a military expert, but some of us were laughing about how Putin was waiting to do it after his Olympics.

28 posted on 04/26/2014 12:36:42 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy

Blue Light Special on a warm water sea port and arable farm land!

You don’t have to be rolling in dough to know ... now’s the time to fill your shopping cart!


29 posted on 04/26/2014 12:36:47 PM PDT by qwertyz
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To: MrEdd
What matters is not so much what Russians believe. Russian slaves will do what their inhuman KGB master forces them to do. What matters is what Putin believes. Putin believes the collapse of the EVIL EMPIRE was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Putin believes that Stalin's mass purges were not as bad as what the USA did in Viet Nam. Putin believes that Russia is islam’s best friend and partner. Putin believes the internet is a CIA plot.

Putin wants to be flattered. He wants to be told that he is smarter, stronger, and more important than he really is.

He can't give up Crimea because it would be too much of an insult to him personally and to his genocidal regime's imaginary greatness.

In the end, Putin is a little man with a serious inferiority complex. His people will pay the price for his hubris and stupidity.

30 posted on 04/26/2014 1:17:35 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Putin is playing Obama like a Pedophile with a little boy in the back of a van. However, the author has a point. Historically, Russians are not very good soldiers outside their own borders (they’re savage when you invade them). They believe the Ukraine belongs to Greater Russia, but Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland are foreign countries to them. Also, if we get a pro-American, pro-business, pro-freedom President in 2016, this could open up the American oil and gas fields and providing energy to Europe, breaking Russia’s economy.


31 posted on 04/26/2014 1:19:17 PM PDT by MuttTheHoople (Nothing is more savage and brutal than justifiably angry Americans. Don’t believe me? Ask the Germa)
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To: Dutchboy88; Cowboy Bob
I live east of Seattle.

We have a large community of Russian expatriates, Romanians, and Moldovans.

I work with two ethnic Russians from Ukraine.

They believe the central problem is one of economic opportunity.

Ukraine has never had an especially strong economy, and there has been very little recovery since the Great Recession in 2008-2009.

According to them, the Russians in Crimea and east Ukraine believe their standard of living will go up much more with Russia than with Ukraine.

32 posted on 04/26/2014 1:22:56 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Putin is a fish. Obama is a potzer.


33 posted on 04/26/2014 1:24:11 PM PDT by Toddsterpatriot (Science is hard. Harder if you're stupid.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Answer my question.

Did you predict months ago when the European Union & Ukraine trade agreement was announced that Russia would invade Ukraine?


34 posted on 04/26/2014 1:30:13 PM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: MrEdd
Russia also sells their gas to the West via a network of pipelines that crisscross Ukraine. Under most circumstances these pipelines are secure but should a civil war break out in Ukraine anti-Russian factions might sabotage these pipelines.

http://en.ria.ru/images/15520/63/155206369.jpg

35 posted on 04/26/2014 1:31:53 PM PDT by Brad from Tennessee (A politician can't give you anything he hasn't first stolen from you.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Ultimately, Russia's strategic interests lie in seizing the Bosporus after thoroughly drubbing Turkey. A greatly-reduced Turkey with Russia filling up the vacuum that would create in the Mediterranean, Caucus, Middle East and even Central Asia (four of the five Central Asian republics are Turkic speaking) is really the prize.

You're right that seizing Crimea without firing a shot is of great symbolic importance in that it had the effect of galvanizing Russians behind him. The Russian people smell blood and they want more. But it was also a major first stage in Russia becoming a Mediterranean power by destroying Turkish power.

In addition to seizing Crimea, maybe Odessa and eastern Ukraine (that seems likely in the near future), Putin will probably take all of Georgia (he's already taken Abkhazia and Ossetia) and sever the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan pipeline, which will really screw Europe. He'll have Europe by the shorts. Then, he'll take Armenia (cutting a territorial deal with the Armenians and the Iranians at the expense of the Turks and the Azeris) and have the Turks surrounded from two sides, three if you count Syria.

The reduction of Turkey to a toothless rump state is the strategic prize. Crimea (and maybe Odessa), the Eastern Ukraine, and Georgia-Armenia are the strategic pivots.

And if there's one theme that's remained constant throughout Russian history the past 1,000 years it's the Slavs' struggle against the Mongol-Tatar (Turkic) steppe peoples who terrorized, raped and looted their lands.

Heck, this is more than strategic. This sh*t is personal for them. And Putin is doing an excellent job in whipping up Russian jingoism.

And the truth is that Obama won't do a damned thing about it. And neither will Europe once he seizes the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. They'll tow the line like the good little quislings they have always been, the contemptible wussies.

If I was Turkey I'd be afraid. Very afraid.

36 posted on 04/26/2014 2:39:46 PM PDT by Gluteus Maximus
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To: MrEdd

Do you mean to say when it was announced by Yanukovich that Ukraine would NOT be making a trade agreement with the EU?

You are aware that Ukraine and the EU did not make an agreement, right?


37 posted on 04/26/2014 3:00:58 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Gluteus Maximus

Actually Putin has emboldened the Turks and played into their hands by supporting ethnic separatists in the Caucasus. Turkey has made moves to establish relations with the Abkhazians because a large diaspora of Abkhazians live in Turkey. The Turks are who paid for the largest mosque in Europe to be built in Chechnya, Russia. Putin turned over Chechnya to the jihadist son of the Chechen mufti who is now establishing sharia law in Russia with Putin’s blessing.


38 posted on 04/26/2014 3:13:37 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: USFRIENDINVICTORIA; Dutchboy88

Many ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian.


39 posted on 04/26/2014 3:40:52 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. CSLewis)
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To: little jeremiah; Dutchboy88

Good point — I over-simplified.

By the same token, anecdotal evidence is often unreliable; and data is not the plural of anecdote.

Canada has the world’s third largest population of ethnic Ukrainians (after Ukraine and Russia); and, they are amongst our best citizens. I wish Ukraine well.


40 posted on 04/26/2014 3:47:46 PM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Putin: My Name Is Mud


41 posted on 04/26/2014 4:05:10 PM PDT by familyop
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Bad strategy in light of what? Economy or WWIII?

Like Obama is bad economic and vote strategy but a good one for destroying the country and totalitarianism.


42 posted on 04/26/2014 7:32:22 PM PDT by lavaroise (A well regulated gun being necessary to the state, the rights of the militia shall not be infringed)
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To: Gluteus Maximus

I wish the Russians can reduce Turkey into a toothless rump state, and that Obama would do nothing about it. I wish.

But that won’t be the case. Obama will definitely protect Turkey against any possibility of Russian aggression. People need to remember that Turkey is an Islamic nation run by an Islamic fundamentalist prime minister who wants to revive the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is not our friend.


43 posted on 04/27/2014 1:21:28 AM PDT by istandwithsarah (Game on!)
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To: 1rudeboy

That’s exactly correct. The strength of Putin’s position is the weakness of his opponent. We have the most strength but a President without the will to use it. Very much like Carter and the Iran Hostage Crisis.


44 posted on 04/27/2014 7:43:21 AM PDT by ops33 (Senior Master Sergeant, USAF (Retired))
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Putin's Chess Moves In Ukraine: Brilliant Tactics, But Bad Strategy?

I think it's bad strategy. Doesn't Putin realize that any further moves against the Ukraine will result in Obama expressing "deep concern?" Does he really want to risk that?

45 posted on 04/27/2014 7:47:53 AM PDT by GreenHornet
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To: istandwithsarah

Turkey is not our friend, indeed. But never underestimate the sheer wussiness of Obama. And the Europeans.


46 posted on 04/27/2014 7:57:57 AM PDT by Gluteus Maximus
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To: Gluteus Maximus

“I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” - Barack Obama

Obama may be a wuss in a lot of situations, but I don’t count on him being a wuss when it comes to helping the Muslim Brotherhood... Just look at how Obama helped overthrow Mubarak and put Morsi in power. The top priority of the Muslim Brotherhood right now is to restore the Caliphate (most likely with Turkey in charge just like the Ottoman era).

My fear is that Obama would give weapons (stealth fighter jets etc) to Turkey under the presence of “containing Russian aggression” and being able to get away with it because of the lapdog media. Those weapons will one day be used in jihad against infidels (including both American and Russian infidels).


47 posted on 04/27/2014 2:34:19 PM PDT by istandwithsarah (Game on!)
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To: USFRIENDINVICTORIA
"Did you ask her what language her family speaks at home? I’m betting Russian."

Yes, she speaks Russian. But, if that is the case, and they wish to go with Russia, what is the fuss?

48 posted on 04/28/2014 8:32:36 AM PDT by Dutchboy88
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