The following is a serious paraphrasing of what Vladimir Putin said during his press conference this morning, from The New Republic:
Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: Serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can't talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. Ukraine needs elections, but you can't have elections because there is already a president. And no elections will be valid given that there is terrorism in the streets of Ukraine. And how are you going to let just anyone run for president? What if some nationalist punk just pops out like a jack-in-the-box? An anti-Semite? Look at how peaceful the Crimea is, probably thanks to those guys with guns holding it down. Who are they, by the way? Speaking of instability, did you know that the mayor of Dniepropetrovsk is a thief? He cheated "our oligarch, [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich" of millions. Just pocketed them! Yanukovich has no political future, I've told him that. He didn't fulfill his obligations as leader of the country. I've told him that. Mr. Putin, what mistakes did Yanukovich make as president? You know, I can't answer that. Not because I don't know the answer, but because it just wouldn't be right of me to say. Did you know they burned someone alive in Kiev? Just like that? Is that what you call a manifestation of democracy? Mr. Putin, what about the snipers in Kiev who were firing on civilians? Who gave them orders to shoot? Those were provocateurs. Didn't you read the reports? They were open source reports. So I don't know what happened there. It's unclear. But did you see the bullets piercing the shields of the Berkut [special police]. That was obvious. As for who gave the order to shoot, I don't know. Yanukovich didn't give that order. He told me. I only know what Yanukovich told me. And I told him, don't do it. You'll bring chaos to your city. And he did it, and they toppled him. Look at that bacchanalia. The American political technologists they did their work well. And this isn't the first time they've done this in Ukraine, no. Sometimes, I get the feeling that these people...these people in America. They are sitting there, in their laboratory, and doing experiments, like on rats. You're not listening to me. I've already said, that yesterday, I met with three colleagues. Colleagues, you're not listening. It's not that Yanukovich said he's not going to sign the agreement with Europe. What he said was that, based on the content of the agreement, having examined it, he did not like it. We have problems. We have a lot of problems in Russia. But they're not as bad as in Ukraine. The Secretary of State. Well. The Secretary of State is not the ultimate authority, is he?http://www.newrepublic.com/...
And so on, for about an hour. And much of that, by the way, is direct quotes.
...Today's Putin was nervous, angry, cornered, and paranoid, periodically illuminated by flashes of his own righteousness. Here was an authoritarian dancing uncomfortably in his new dictator shoes, squirming in his throne.
It looks like Germany's Angela Merkel made the correct diagnosis - after speaking with the Russian leader, she told President Obama on Sunday that she thought Putin was not in in touch with reality, and was "in another world".
Perhaps this whole nightmare won't be for naught if it brings Merkel and Obama closer together.
I would argue this Russian military misadventure is a glimpse of what a McCain presidency would have looked like. And perhaps what the George W. Bush presidency did look like to the rest of the world.
The Washington Post corroborates Putin's incoherence in an article titled:
A brief rundown of Vladimir Putin’s strange, rambling press conferencesmall excerpt:
To the dozen or so journalists in the room, and the many more watching remotely, it seemed to be a series of half-truths, circular reasoning, and bravado. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was right, Julia Ioffe of the New Republic has observed, Putin has "lost his mind."http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
Okay, the big crazy takeaway from the WaPo piece are these Putin quotes:
“Look at former Soviet republics,” he said. “You can go to a store and buy a uniform. Were these Russian soldiers? No, they’re very well-trained self-defense forces.”Unbelievable, but Putin is saying that he has NOT sent troops to Crimea! Those masked gunmen at the airport, according to him, are...Ukrainian Freedom Fighters??? Wow
“If I decide to use armed forces, it will be in line with international law.”