Isn’t it funny? The 2018 soccer World Cup – one of the greatest sporting tournaments in the world – will be held in Russia.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Yes, the land that 'liberates' nations by encouraging dictators (think Assad) to gas their own people and by training intoxicated rebels to murder their fellow citizens (think Ukraine).
And now Putin is burning his dead soldiers.
In a piece published on Tuesday, Josh Rogin of Bloomberg View explained how Moscow, in an attempt to hide its presence in Ukraine, is using mobile crematoriums to burn the bodies of dead Russian soldiers. Yup, mobile crematoriums. Everything about it is sick. Not only is Putin content to lie to his people and to the world, he’s happy to burn Russia’s fallen sons in order to cover-up his own crimes of aggression.
Of course, in Vladimir’s mind, this is an easy choice. After all, by incinerating Russian corpses to scorch any evidence of his involvement in Ukraine – Mr. Putin knows he’s getting away with the destruction of Ukraine’s sovereignty. To Putin, morality is as irrelevant as President Obama’s phone calls. Still, the incinerators are more than a pretense. They speak to the nature of Putin’s international strategy. For months now, NATO officials have affirmed with increasing certainty that Russia has deployed thousands of troops inside Ukraine in order to destabilize that nation. But, aware of the West’s disinterest in standing up for its values, Putin knows that all he needs to do to continue his conquest is to mitigate the evidence of his involvement. Correspondingly, by burning the remains of Russian soldiers, he’s alleviating new pressure on President Obama to take any serious action. This is covert action in the 21st century.
And Putin is the master of this dark art.
Consider his record in Ukraine. An expert at the niceties of the diplomatic game – promising hope and taking photos with Western leaders – Mr. Putin nevertheless resorts to violence every time. Consider that he deliberately signed, and then promptly undermined the Minsk I and Minsk II ceasefire agreements (Sept 2014/Feb 2015). While the West praised his concessions, he laughed at the West’s stupidity. Today, as evidenced by Russia’s continued strategy of carving out Ukraine’s southeast, Putin continues to funnel Russian Special Forces into that nation.
Only one thing will stop him.
As I’ve argued, before, the West must arm Ukraine. Putin is hell bent on expanding the Russian federation beyond its borders to include territories he claims are his own. And yet, as Putin literally burns Ukraine and his own soldiers – President Obama still cannot make up his mind about what to do about arming Ukraine.
But perhaps this means Putin’s legacy might find another testament.
Along with Ukraine, Putin’s stick-it to America attitude may one day secure him a spot on cheap souvenir t-shirts like other murderous tyrants.