Americans play Monopoly, Russians chess: We landed on Park Place fair and square, and that gave us the right to put down a hotel. Never mind that Ukraine is a basket case with a per capital income a tenth that of the European Community, whose best young people (along with some of its worst) have left the country, with a ruined economy and a declining population. Putin isn’t playing by the rules printed on the inside top cover of the board game. He’s another Hitler! Where is our Churchill? It’s a Monty Python remake of Dr. Strangelove. A few provocateurs holding a Russian flag pass out handbills demanding that Jews in Eastern Ukraine register with the authorities, and the whole of the media as well as the Obama administration hyperventilates, until the affair is exposed as a hoax.
The threat, as the great chess theorist Aron Nimzowitsch wrote, is mightier than the execution. Putin will let the West take ownership of the Ukrainian disaster until it festers, and then he will pick and choose what he wants. We will huff and puff and bloviate about Putin, the new Hitler, while Ukraine’s economy disintegrates. Bismarck’s aphorism applies: die ganze Ukraine ist nicht die gesunden knochen eines pommerschen Grenadiers wert.