The Russian Bear’s Claws Are Out Again



By Sigrid Weidenweber

It seems President Vladimir Putin always makes a gesture of dominance before meeting with an American president. Here are a few examples:

  1. President Obama is sworn in January 20, 2009. He meets with Putin in July of that year, after Putin confronts him with the fait accompli of having annexed Crimea by force. The US president does nothing but cry “woe is us,” for he does not want to start a war that early in his presidency. Round one: win by Putin
  2. Before meeting president Obama in Iceland in June 2013, Putin thumbs his nose at our president by granting asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden who, by revealing classified documents, has committed treason, or at least, federal crimes. The Obama government shouts loudly but is impotent to do anything. (Although, upon hearing the Snowden revelations, I thought the man was more a hero than a villain for uncovering the government’s network used to spy on the citizenry). Round two: win by Putin
  3. In March 2014, Putin starts an insurrection in the Donbass of Ukraine before meeting with Obama. Another “woe is us” moment, nothing much is done. Round three: win by Putin
  4. President Trump is expected to meet President Vladimir Putin at the G 20 in Buenos Aires. Before even arriving, he is confronted with Putin’s newest aggression affront: the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels. It seems Mr. Putin enjoys Keeping US Presidents of balance at international meetings, for each of his aggressions must be met with counterforce. That keeps the State Department, a flock of generals and diplomats, as well as the EU diplomatic brains engaged.

In the meantime, Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, administered a warning to Russia, calling the seizure of the ships “yet another reckless Russian escalation.” Her comments were in accordance with President Trump and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, with parliaments approval, declared martial law for 30 days.

The underlying reason for the seizure of the ships is Russia’s never-ending quest to regain the Donbass of Ukraine, a region of heavy industry that once was a Soviet Republic. The antecedents for the present conflict lie in its geography, which Putin is using to harass Ukraine. The Black Sea—an international body of water—bordered by Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania besides Ukraine and Russia, has been used by merchant and war ships by many countries. The shipping lanes include the Kerch Straight, which leads into the Sea of Azov, which is rimmed by many port cities. The Kerch Straight is bordered on both sides by Russia. The Crimea, annext to Russia by force, is one side, the Kuban region, with the Kuban River flowing into the Sea of Azov, is the other edge of the Straight. Months before the seizure of the three ships and their crews, Moscow began quietly to put a choke hold on its neighbor’s economy by harassing vessels in the Kerch shipping lane, delaying commerce.

Moscow is intent on impacting Ukraine’s economy—weakening it to the point where Ukraine stops integrating with the West and, instead, realigns with Moscow.

Andriy Klymenko a Ukrainian maritime analyst avers,” They are gradually turning the key in the lock of the Kerch Straight.”

Today, November 29, 2018, President Trump is leaving for the G 20 meeting. He is being implored by many international voices to forcefully counter Vladimir Putin. American navy presence in the Black Sea, NATO forces to stationed in Ukraine on the Kerch embankments, and Russia’s expulsion from the international Swift banking system have been suggested as very forceful measures. Also, the US and the UK should pressure Germany and other European countries to cancel Moscow’s planned Nord Stream 2 and South Stream pipeline projects.

Are we going to see, if this time the US president comes out of the scuffle with, at least, a draw? I am waiting with bated breath.

Sigrid Weidenweber grew up in communist East Berlin, escaping it using a French passport. Ms. Weidenweber holds a degree in medical technology as well as psychology and has course work in Anthropology.  She is co-founder of Aid for Afghans.  Weidenweber has traveled the world and lived with Pakistani Muslims, learning about the culture and religion. She is a published author and lecturer.

You can find her books on

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