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At the same time Putin’s soldiers were seizing Crimean strategic assets, I was predicting to an interviewer that I didn’t think he would actually do it. Sure I feel silly about being wrong, but the reason is that I didn’t think anybody would do something so dumb, even Putin. He must have been really worried that the new government would revoke the Russian naval base in Crimea, which is exactly what it should do.
His seizure of Crimea will get him nothing, except the enmity of most of Ukraine’s 45 million people. Does he really want to rule over more people who cannot stand him? I’m tempted here to insert all the jokes about Crimea, that he can have it and maybe he can do something about the lousy summer service and dirty beaches. But nobody’s in a joking mood now.
“We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos,” Putin wrote. “The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.”
Rereading those words after the events of the past few days is jarring. On Saturday, Putin received authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine, following a series of protests that led to the ousting of Putin-ally Viktor Yanukovych. Reportsfrom Crimea, a largely autonomous region within southern Ukraine that has a sizable ethnic Russian population, suggest that troops have already taken over key government buildings.
As Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times has pointed out, Russia hasn’t sought U.N. approval yet, nor suggested they ever will. Additionally, Russia seems to be flouting the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, also signed by the United States and Britain, which saw the states agree to recognize the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine in return for Kiev destroying its nuclear arsenal.
Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.
This bill, like others across the country, was thought necessary because of the emergence of business, large and small, being attacked by the gay left for either espousing Christian values or acting on their Christian faith. Ranging from a bakery to a photographer, individuals were being sued for refusing to violate their religious beliefs.
Under these rules, freedom of conscience is squashed under the jackboot of liberals, all in the Orwellian name of “equality and fairness.” Here we are dealing with not just forcing someone to do something for you, but forcing them in the process to violate a sacrament of their faith as well.
If Arizona legislators were being perfectly candid, they would have labeled their so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act precisely what it was, a “Right to Use Religion as an Excuse to Discriminate Against Gay Men and Lesbians Act.”
Supporters insist the Arizona bill was not anti-gay. But what else do you call a bill that “protects” the right of businesses to discriminate against gay people, as long as businesses attribute their discrimination to their religious beliefs?