Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yogi Berra was right. It’s déjà vu all over again.

I don’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of Vladimir Putin, president of Russia and a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB, which Time magazine once called, in a bit of an understatement, “the world’s most effective information-gathering organization” (John Kohan, “Eyes of the Kremlin,” February 14, 1983).

Effective. Indeed.

Nor do I pretend to know much about the Crimea, except that there was a war there from 1853 until 1856 which (a) brought Florence Nightingale to the attention of the world and (b) Russia famously lost.

Speaking of the Crimean War, here is detail from Franz Roubaud’s panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904) :

To my Texan eyes it looks rather like the Mexican Army at the Alamo.

Today I read in an online Associated Press article that the Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula to the republic where he began his political career, a transfer that hardly mattered until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and Crimea ended up in an independent Ukraine. Furthermore, I read that Crimea’s port city of Sevastopol is also home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its thousands of naval personnel. The ousted Ukrainian president Yanukovych extended the fleet’s lease until 2042, but Russia fears that Ukraine’s temporary pro-Western government [emphasis mine] could evict it. The U.S. is not calling for a full Russian withdrawal from Crimea, an Obama administration official said, but does want Moscow’s forces to return to their normal operating position at their base, where they have an agreement with Ukraine to keep up to 11,000 troops.

A man named Barry Pavel, who worked on the White House National Security Council under both Obama and President George W. Bush, says that reasserting control of Crimea may be even more important to Russia than the Georgian territories. “Russian nationalists consider this to be practically Russian territory,” [emphasis mine] said Pavel, who now serves as vice president of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “The chances of Russian forces ever leaving where they are are very low.”

So the international ballet continues.

What could possibly go wrong?

It all seems very familiar, though.

Oh, yes, now I remember. In 1990, Saddam Hussein called Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq.


  1. We do seem to be doomed to repeat our mistakes don't we. Sad. And bad.

  2. EC, Mrs. Clinton said yesterday that Putin's actions were reminiscent of Hitler's aggression into Austria and the Sudetenland in the 1930s "to protect the German minorities".

    Maybe the world won't be doomed if today's would-be aggressors can just learn from history.

  3. Speaking of Yogi, did you ever see the movie about the friendship between Maris and Mantle? I can't remember the name of it--what with my brain dying inside my living body and all--but it's good, really good. I hope you'll see it. If you want to see it but have trouble finding the name, let me know, and I'll get it for you, my friend.

  4. Snow, my research department tells me you may be referring to a 1962 movie called "Safe At Home" in which both players portrayed themselves. Is that the one you mean?

  5. The movie is *61 and is from 2001:

    Neither player is in this one, both being dead.

  6. Snowbrush, thanks for sending the title of the film you meant.