Rescue Me, Mr. Putin!
Vladimir Putin is justifying his grab for Crimea with the need to protect the "Russian-speaking population" in Ukraine. But why stop there?Dear President Putin:
I am sorely in need of your protection. Please help.
Now, I know this might seem a bit unexpected coming from an American -- a "pure American," as you might say. By which I mean that there's not a drop of Russian blood in my body.
But that, you see, is not the whole story. It so happens that I speak your language. I started studying Russian in high school, and I've been studying it for years since then. Maybe I'm not entirely fluent, but I know enough to follow the news.
Which is why I was so thrilled to read the Kremlin's statement about your March 1 phone call with President Obama: "Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas."
What a wonderfully elastic phrase: "the Russian-speaking population."
In any event, stating that your main concern in Ukraine is guarding the interests of the "Russian-speaking population" is a masterstroke.
The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians speak some Russian, so just about anyone in the country is potentially in a position to enjoy your protection.
And as for potential threats to us Russian speakers in the rest of the world -- well, they're everywhere, aren't they? When my wife and I were speaking Russian in the supermarket checkout line today, I noticed the cashier giving us dirty looks. And we're not alone. There are thousands of Russian-speaking immigrants in the suburbs of Washington. If we all gather together in one place, we'd definitely qualify as a "population."
OK, so maybe we aren't "compatriots," strictly speaking. But you've got an easy solution for that too -- you can just give us passports! As freshly minted citizens, we'll be fully entitled to your protection.
You know what I'm talking about, right? I've seen those images of your officials handing out shiny new Russian passports to members of Berkut, the Ukrainian riot police who are the main folks responsible for the killing of 88 demonstrators in the center of Kiev during the EuroMaidan Revolution. Now, if anyone knows how to take care of themselves, surely it's these guys -- yet you're going out of your way to guarantee that crucial extra bit of insurance. Could there be any better example of the broad, generous Russian soul at work?
Let's give credit where credit is due: You are the architect of these policies, Vladimir Vladimirovich. You and no one else. The ruling elite in Moscow is simply following your lead, frantically scrambling onto the anti-Ukrainian bandwagon as fast as they can. (They're right not to care if war results; after all, it's not their kids who will be doing the fighting.) As for ordinary Russians -- well, for some reason they aren't quite so keen. One poll conducted last week showed that 73 percent of your own citizens think that Russian intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine is a bad idea.
Not that you should stop there, of course, Mr. Putin.
There are plenty of other Russian speakers around the world yearning to be free. Take London -- or should I say "Londongrad"?
As for me, you know how to get in touch. We American Russian-speakers don't need a lot of protection -- I'm sure that a couple of spetsnaz around the neighborhood would do fine. But please don't wait too long. The English-speaking majority around here is starting to get a bit uppity.