Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Putin is Playing Chess, While the West Plays Checkers


The abiding arrogance of the West when it comes to its contemptuous disregard for the rest of the world has never been more evident than its role in the Ukrainian crisis over these past few days. The coup which brought down the elected government of Viktor Yanukovych was the catalyst for a dangerous rise in tensions that show no sign of abating, with Russian troops continuing to cement their control over the Crimea, where Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, seizing control of the regional parliament, airports, and other strategic points.

The role of the EU in fomenting this crisis, with more than a little help from US ‘champions of democracy’ such as Senator John McCain – a man who belongs to the yee-ha! school of US foreign policy – qualifies as criminally irresponsible and politically reckless. The sight of those same political figures now attempting to claim the moral high ground vis-à-vis Moscow after ramping up tensions in Kiev and giving the protesters who occupied Maidan Square – many of them members of far right neo Nazi organisations – their unequivocal support has been embarrassing to behold.

No amount of dissembling and propaganda can alter the fact that a democratically elected government was overturned by an armed mob, with fascists and neo Nazis playing a key role, thus revealing that where the West is concerned democracy is not an end but merely a means to an end. This end is focused on the creation of governments pliant to western interests, regardless of whether those governments come by way of the ballot box or the mob. The hypocrisy in this regard is clear.

It is also clear that there is a compelling geopolitical context to these events, revolving around the struggle between the continuation of a unipolar world, wherein the writ of Washington and its allies runs anywhere it so decides regardless of international law or national sovereignty, or the multipolar alternative that the emergence of Russia, China, and other rapidly emerging economies demands.

When it comes to Russia, the re-emergence of Moscow as a global player post the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the early nineties qualifies as a remarkable success story in Russian terms and a huge strategic and foreign policy failure by Washington and its allies. Russia’s ability to project hard power as well as soft power, utilising its oil and gas deposits as a political weapon, has been increasingly evident over the past few years, enabling it to defeat western objectives in Georgia in 2008, Syria last year, and now sees it in direct and open conflict with the West in the Ukraine. Clearly, hawks in the US and Europe have proved consistent when it comes to failing to learn the lesson that Russia is no slouch when it comes to protecting its interests.

Oil and gas is a key factor in this unfolding crisis. At the start of 2009 Russia temporarily cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in response to allegations by the Russian government that Ukraine was siphoning off gas destined for Europe. A section of the Ukrainian political and business class has been determined to turn Ukraine to the West ever since, which if successful could set in train a ripple effect that would hurt Russia economically and pose an increased security threat from Nato expansion up to its border.

That said, the relationship between Russia and Europe is by definition one of interdependence. Europe receives over 60% of its gas from Russia and Moscow depends on the revenue it receives in the process. What Putin has done by acting so decisively in sending Russian troops into the Crimea is to create that all important fact on the ground. In any negotiations that will subsequently ensue over the crisis will necessarily revolve around this key fact. The bombast being bandied around in western capitals regarding the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty is hot air, akin to a bully in a school playground accusing the boy who beats him at his own game of not fighting fair.

The sight of Russian soldiers in the Crimea is evidence that western hegemony, long held as the sine qua non of global affairs, is no longer a given. It is also further evidence that when it comes to foreign policy, Vladimir Putin is playing chess while his counterparts in Washington, London, and throughout the EU are playing checkers.

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”