Russians love Vladimir Putin.
In fact, recent polls show Putin’s approval rating at a strong 83%.
You see, over the last three decades, Russia has lost power and respect with other nations, and the Russian people have become disgruntled.
But Putin makes Russia matter again, even if he does it by being a rogue. (His decision to invade Crimea and annex it to Russia is a perfect example.)
And recently, Putin has been feeling nearly invincible – perhaps because he successfully dismantled the free press in Russia and curbed electoral freedoms.
But now, Putin – like many despots – has overplayed his hand, and he’s in jeopardy of losing his momentum thanks to his allies’ recent attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.
Every day, the facts on the ground become clearer… Russian-controlled rebels in Eastern Ukraine are responsible for shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The rebels feel empowered by the Russian arms they’re using to control Eastern Ukraine’s airspace. In fact, just days before shooting down MH17, they were celebrating the successful takedown of a Ukrainian Military transport plane.
And while it’s likely they mistook MH17 for a military target, what they thought doesn’t really matter. The reality is that 298 innocent civilians were murdered by a Russian surface-to-air missile system.
A Resolution in Sight?
With the push of a button, the Russian rebels did what a legion of American diplomats couldn’t accomplish in weeks of work – they’ve given the European Union reason to place tough sanctions on Russia.
The EU can’t ignore the dead Dutch, French, German, Italian, and British passengers who were on MH17… or the fact that the Russian rebels seemed more interested in looting credit cards and belongings from the bodies than securing evidence for aviation investigators.
Fortunately, two nights ago, some progress was announced…
The refrigerator train containing the dead bodies will be released to Malaysian Airlines personnel and then returned to the victims’ families. The rebels are also turning the black box recordings over to European crash investigators, an important step in resolving the tragedy.
And Vladimir Putin, himself, took the biggest step toward resolving the crisis by announcing his plans to end the military conflict in Ukraine and negotiate the establishment of a peaceful settlement.
Only in the weeks ahead will we know if Putin is serious about ending the crisis. After all, he created it by training, funding, arming, and equipping the rebels. He can certainly end the insurgency by standing down and asking his surrogates to do the same.
Meanwhile, Obama has been handed an incredible opportunity to gain the upper hand for the U.S.-allied Ukrainians.
We’ll have to wait and see if Obama uses this opening or squanders it like so many other opportunities to bring peace to the troubled hotspots around the globe.
Your eyes on the Hill,