Matt Continetti notes that the bear — the real bear — is indeed loose:
Obama is not the bear. He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow.
One can trace a line from any global hotspot to Russia and its authoritarian ruler. Iran? Russia has assisted its nuclear program for decades. Syria? Russia is Bashar Assad’s arms dealer. Iraq? Russia is sending men and materiel to the central government. Afghanistan? Putin muscled nearby Kyrgyzstan into closing our air base there, crucial for transport, resupply, and reconnaissance in the war against the Taliban. The contretemps between the United States and Germany is the result of Edward Snowden’s breach of national security. Where is Snowden? In Russia, where he has just asked to have his visa renewed. I wonder if Vladimir Putin will say yes…
Thursday brought us only the latest unintended consequence of Russia’s war on Ukrainian independence: the destruction of a Malaysian airlines flight carrying 295 souls. The attack is revolting, the loss of life infuriating, but the downing of Flight MH17 is not the first unanticipated outcome of the war Vladimir Putin began in Ukraine. Nor will it be the last.
What if the bear, like the cub, has lost control of events? Giving Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine high-tech missiles to take down Kiev’s military planes makes sense for Putin. Standing by while they shoot down passenger jets doesn’t. He took Crimea because he knew that NATO’s European members wouldn’t care; they weren’t going to sacrifice Russian energy and Russian investment by imposing harsh sanctions just because he wanted Sevastopol back. Now they care. The emerging theory of what happened yesterday, that Putin’s Ukrainian proxies fired at the plane thinking it was a Ukrainian military jet, makes the most sense. What’s the bear going to do about it now, though? If he wanted to bring them to heel, could he even do it? Would the Russian public, after gorging on months of Kremlin propaganda about gay U.S.-backed Nazis seizing Kiev and threatening Moscow, allow it? Quote:
“How can Putin really manage this?” Pavlovsky went on. “You’d need to be an amazing conductor. Stalin was an amazing conductor in this way. Putin can’t quite pull off this trick. The audience is warmed up and ready to go; it is wound up and waiting for more and more conflict. You can’t just say, ‘Calm down.’ It’s a dangerous moment. Today, forty per cent of Russia wants real war with Ukraine. Putin himself doesn’t want war with Ukraine. But people are responding to this media machine. Putin needs to lower the temperature.”…
If it turns out that men like Strelkov and his fellow soldier-fantasists were responsible for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and all the people on board, the fever in Russia and Ukraine may intensify beyond anything that Vladimir Putin could have predicted or desired.
Maybe Putin’s not the bear. Maybe he’s just riding it and now he’s at risk of falling off. What happens then?
Update: He’s running late, as he always is for White House statements, so turn on cable news at noon ET instead.