“It’s moved from a century of communism to an effective dictatorship with extreme controls on speech and media. Dissent is immediately quashed. Contrary voices are extinguished.”
You have obviously never been to Russia. Putin and his government have been subjected to constant criticism in the media and even protests on the streets.
“It was Putin’s choice to take Ukraine, and he knew full well that it would lead to sanctions.
It was not “Putin’s choice” to “take Ukraine.” First of all Putin did not “take Ukraine.” He ousted the Ukrainian forces from Crimea, which is not part of Ukraine and has been a Russian possession and home of the Russian fleet since the time of Catherine II. Crimea has been Russian longer than California has been part of the USA. Where do you get this nonsense?
Putin was under enormous pressure at home to take Eastern Ukraine too. Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens were evacuated from Ukraine because of the fear and intimidation used against them and their properties and businesses. The Ukrainian government and the west in general looked the other way. He refused to do so although he did give support to Russian separatists there. The Ukrainian unrest was engineered by NATO in the first place and it was Ukraine, not Russia that tore up the 1991 treaty which committed to not allowing a foreign military alliance (read NATO) on its soil and also to protect the rights and respect the properties of ethnic Russians. That treaty was validated at the time by the UN and by the Partnership for Peace in Europe.
Russia withdrew from almost all Eastern European countries voluntarily and peacefully after securing such treaties. Its only interest was in keeping NATO away from its borders. NATO, suddenly devoid of its raison d’etre, bullied and bribed its way into almost every one of them soon afterwards.
Putin had no choice but the draw a line in the sand and say “no further.”
You may think it is “aggressive” not to want massive military alliance pushing on your borders but you obviously do not understand Russian history. We do not have good memories of such alliances. You have no idea of the history invoked for a Russian of German troops in Poland for example.
But Crimea was the most important of all. Crimea is the home of the Black Sea Fleet and Russia’s lifeline for trade. If Obama really believed that Russia would back down with Crimea at stake, then he must be chronically stupid.
The USA has military bases in 60 countries. Russia has military bases in three. The USA and NATO have been involved in constant attacks against other countries world-wide since the fall of communism. Russia has attacked two.
You do not get to stand on someone’s door step, poking them in the ribs with a gun, and claiming that they are behaving aggressively when they respond.
When Russia is building military bases on the banks of the Rio Grande, and holding massive military war games in the Gulf of Mexico, then you will have the right to accuse Russia of aggression without sounding ridiculously hypocritical.