It doesn’t take long for Russian humor to tear into the pronouncements of American lawmakers.
When the Crimean crisis began turning white hot, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, lambasted President Barak Obama in perfect partisan tradition for being outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It culminated with this somewhat clunky sound bite: “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles….”
One of the many responses from Russia came two days later with this hilarious and deliciously photoshopped picture of a steely-eyed, cunning Putin, one hand in his pocked, playing chess against his furiously thinking and frustrated-looking foes, all lined up on the other side:
- President Obama (you can just about see him cussing under his breath)
- British Prime Minister Cameron (worried about the giant sucking sound that the City of London would hear as the Russian money is bailing out)
- German Chancellor Merkel (“Oh mein Gott, how am I going to get out of this?” she seems to be thinking)
- French President Hollande (brain gridlocked, lips pressed into a thin line)
- Other luminaries receding into the background, all trying to think their way out of this debacle.
Putin playing chess pic.twitter.com/kHK91O55N8
— M Reed (@mn_reed) March 15, 2014
So, Elizabeth Wahl, the RT news anchor who famously quit her job “somewhat arbitrarily” while on air, extended the metaphor on Friday, with her article, “I Was Putin’s Pawn.” It was subtitled, “What it was like to work for the Russian propaganda machine, and why I quit on live TV.” Turns out, she couldn’t “be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.”
Then Igor Sechin, CEO of state-owned Russian oil-major Rosneft whose stock price has gotten hammered since the Crimean crisis erupted, came out and said essentially, hey look you guys, moving these pawns and knights around is useless.
He is one of the Russian officials targeted by sanctions, but under Russian law, he isn’t allowed to own foreign assets anyway. So he didn’t see a material loss, he said. And travel restrictions only mean that his US partners, like Exxon managers, would have to travel to Russia to meet him. Sanctions would only consolidate and strengthen the Russian political and economic elite. “What are they trying to achieve?” he said. “Miff me?
“As Sanctions Start, Russia Feels a Sting,” countered the New York Times. “Behind the bravado, however, lurked a distinct unease about the possible long-term effects on an already troubled economy,” it said. And so the frantic moves continue, each desperately trying to build up pain and pressure where it hurts without sacrificing too many pawns. What we still don’t know is who the pawns are who will in the end be sacrificed.
The White House attacks Russian financial markets and oil, publicly and behind-the-scenes, Merkel suffers from “moral cowardice,” Russia develops the “Putin Doctrine” and threatens Estonia, and a crescendo of sanctions and counter-sanctions erupts. What gives? Read…. The “Sanction Spiral” Elegantly Spirals Out of Control