Earlier today, before the Russian-Ukrainian natural gas dealwas announced and when it looked as if Russia might really try to freeze its former province this winter for the crime of voting in a pro-Western government, I was chatting with an acquaintance who’s an expert on, and generally an optimist about, Russian politics. We were speculating about the Ukrainian options if the Russians stuck with what seemed to be deliberately provocative demands, and I wondered out loud whether the Ukrainian government could simply nationalize the pipeline.
The expert pointed out that the Ukrainian secret police, working for a government then closely allied with Russia, had poisoned Yuschenko when Yuschenko was running for president. “If I were Yuschenko, before I thought about nationalization I’d want to know how close the Ukrainian secret police still are to the FSB.”
He also reports that Putin is (1)very popular in Russia and (2) much less scary than most of the alternatives.
Remember, we were talking about a country that still has lots of nuclear weapons. Now that’s what I call “scary.”