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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Eventually, U.S. will have to match words with action in Ukraine

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Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2014 at 06:23 AM

So, according to reports that have reached this desk, Vladimir Putin just put in a call to President Obama last night and the details were released to selected press people. Here is the message transcribed in English:

Putin — “Knock, knock”

Obama — “Who's there?”

Putin — “Crimea”

Obama — “Crimea who?”

Putin — “Crimea river.”

Don't you love the Internet. I only hope they haven't started blowing up bridges and airfields before this column runs.

I've read and heard discussion that what is happening in the Ukraine is not the Sudetenland all over and that Vladimir Putin is no Hitler.

Probably not.

Is he nuts? Maybe a little. Is he afraid of his own shadow in the world he lives in? Almost certainly.

If the Crimea move turns out badly, his own people back home might start thinking they need to make changes.

Is he likely to do anything to save his own skin? Well now, that's the real question, and there is a lineup of opinions on that from Washington, D.C., to the West Tampa Sandwich Shop.

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I do know that in those heady days leading up to WWII, the Germans living in the cobbled together nation of Czechoslovakia were only one large ethnic group there for the picking. Following the German “Anschluss” — or annexation — of Austria and then Czechoslovakia, other nations came in to claim bits and pieces of ethnic-peopled land for Hungary and Poland.

And I also think that in 1938 Adolf Hitler was no Adolf Hitler ... at least to much of the world that was wrapped up in other things.

When Hitler's twisted anti-Semitic rants became policy and met little resistance, the game was on.

Three-quarters of a century down the pike, Putin's objectives appear less organized and more of the old Russian fears of invasion and setting up countries as buffers. Although today you would think the fear would come more from the east than the west.

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Our concerns around here, I would think, would be less what Putin is likely to do than what actions, if any, our government is willing to take.

If you want to step back to the Sudetenland for a second and the ensuing German moves into Poland and elsewhere, there were treaties in place. There were any number of promises to come to the aid of one country or another, but when it became crunch time ... you know what happened.

I'm not sure if President Obama has ever looked Putin in the eye as George Bush famously said he did more than a decade ago when he found him “straightforward and trustworthy,” but the real story is what we are going to do. I seem to recall the president drawing a line in Syria, and he seems to be drawing more lines now.

At some point, before it gets to the “double dog dare you” level when you can't turn back, we're going to have to own up to our own posturing and do something.

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