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Susan Estrich commentary: Vladimir Putin's posturing

Summary: I understand that even pretend and almost wars are dangerous. Lives will almost certainly be lost, in exercises if not in hostilities, needlessly, in what will hopefully prove to be a bigger crisis averted, a war interrupted, all part of a star turn by a man who covets the world's attention, even or especially its fear, but has done nothing to earn its respect. And that is, in the end, what should make him more frightening to us than his need to posture would suggest.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in St. Petersburg, Russia December 26, 2016.
Sputnik/Michael Klimentyev/Kremlin/via REUTERS
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I feel badly for Ukraine, poor country.

Here is Russian President Vladimir Putin , posturing for the whole world to see, ready to invade his smaller and weaker neighbor.

Here is the big United States, issuing warnings, moving troops, making clear our intention to defend Europe.

It has all the makings of one of those crises that my generation grew up going to air raid shelters in the school basement to prepare for.

We should, at least, be crowded around our televisions waiting to see if the world will go to war.

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Instead, my guess is, more people are talking about the weather, which is winterlike in most of the U.S., not to mention Ukraine. Then there's the burning question of burning our masks, or at least whether anyone is going to wear one at the Super Bowl. The Olympics, sadly for NBC, is a distant third, before you get to the war in Ukraine.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
Tribune graphic

It's hard to take the temperature in this country, figuratively speaking, and not come to the conclusion that Ukraine is just not at the top of our agenda.

Actually, I've been to Ukraine and met many amazing, brave, fascinating people. My aunt, very late in life, told me that part of our family was in fact from Kyiv, which I was lucky enough to visit. So, yes, I can pick out Ukraine on a map, and I care about what happens there, and not only for geopolitical reasons.

And as much as I realize that Asia is in many ways the greater battleground, I continue to believe that NATO matters and alliances matter and America standing up for national autonomy does matter.

But having said all that, let me add that the weather in California is sunny and 75, and I'm not glued to my television to follow what's happening in Ukraine either. And if not me, who?

Growing up, I remember the film clip of Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations banging his shoe on the table and promising to bury us being played almost as many times as the anti-Barry Goldwater ad of a daisy dissolving into a nuclear war. If you're too young to remember either, they were hallmarks of Baby Boom political awareness and of the Cold (and not so cold) War. If you were a kid then, as I was, they were terrifying. I was a little girl when the Russians put nuclear missiles in Cuba, but I remember how afraid we were. This stuff was really scary.

It was the greatest test of the short administration. The young president stood down the dictator. High drama.

Not exactly what we're witnessing right now, certainly not from Mr. Putin.

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He looks, frankly, like he's posturing, desperate for center stage; the Chinese and their Olympics be damned, he wants us to be afraid of him, and for just that reason, as childish as this may seem, I refuse to be.

In Moscow once, I wandered a few blocks from my hotel next to the Bolshoi and promptly got lost. I might as well have been in the Second World, if not the Third. It wasn't just anti-Americanism that put me off, but the abject misery so close to the now-glittering streets where wealthy women shop in designer stores.

I understand that even pretend and almost wars are dangerous. Lives will almost certainly be lost, in exercises if not in hostilities, needlessly, in what will hopefully prove to be a bigger crisis averted, a war interrupted, all part of a star turn by a man who covets the world's attention, even or especially its fear, but has done nothing to earn its respect. And that is, in the end, what should make him more frightening to us than his need to posture would suggest.

Susan Estrich can be reached at sestrich@wctrib.com .

More commentary:
Recent commentary columns published by the West Central Tribune.
From the commentary: People who threaten to blow up an airplane if their political demands aren't met are political terrorists.

Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via sestrich@wctrib.com.
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