Vladimir Putin isn't invading Crimea or trying to secure the land around which his warm-water fleet is based, no, no. He is protecting Russian speakers from brazen fascist aggression on the part of the Ukrainians. Truth is, protecting, uh, Russian speakers in Crimea has been a passion of Putin's for a long time.
Publicly, since at least 2008. That year, at the April Russia-NATO summit in Bucharest, Putin made his desire to protect the Russian language known. Putin and his brass have long felt that NATO, especially an expanding one, to be one of the main threats to Russia. I can't blame him, frankly, but at that summit, he reportedly made clear that if NATO dared to take Ukraine into its fold, Putin will take...Crimea. You know, to protect the Russian speakers.
It caused quite a hubbub at the time, with Ukrainian then-president Viktor Yushchenko saying that NATO would be a great way to guarantee Ukraine's independence. Which, given Putin's reported remarks to then-President George W. Bush, seemed to be up for discussion. "You have to understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a country," he is widely reported to have said. "Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and the greater part was given to them by us." (By the way, note all the then-presidents I've mentioned. Putin has survived them all.)
Anyway, back to those Russian speakers in Crimea, remember them? Well, there were plenty of Russian speakers living under Ukraine's flag back in April 2008, too, and Putin seemed not to be too preoccupied with their fate then. Crimea itself was a different issue. Think about it: If you sold your house and the buyers accidentally got your car with it, too, you'd want it back, too. And Putin doesn't even think of it as a sale; it was a donation. And they got your car. How fair is that?
The point is, if you still thought that this was about the poor Russian speakers on the Crimean peninsula, it's not. Here's yet another piece of evidence that Putin has been looking for a pretext to take back his car. Another important thing to note here is that this is how Putin thinks the U.S. does things, too. He says he wants to protect someone's rights and safety, but really, he is using it as cover to take something. So why should he believe Barack Obama when he says he wants to protect Syrian civilians? What's he thinking of taking from them?
Stay informed with The New Republic's Ukraine Newsletter. Sign-up here.