By Martin Schram

News was being made Wednesday morning at Vladimir Putin's bully pulpit (pardon my redundancy).

Across Russia's 11 time zones, and all around the rest of the world, vast numbers of people hated what they heard Russia's suddenly shaken global bully saying in his videotaped speech. But for different reasons.

What most of the world hated hearing was Putin ― whose invading troops were recently routed by the Ukrainians ― issue the most blatant nuclear blackmail threat since World War II.

Russia's president announced an immediate sham gunpoint election vote to annex as a new part of Russia the eastern Ukraine land his troops still hold. And Putin pointedly warned he'll use all the weapons he has (he means his nukes) if the West tries to stop him.

"If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will of course use all means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people," Putin warned. "This is not a bluff."

Putin's scheme is now clear: In sham votes, he'll annex Ukraine's eastern and southern regions where Russia has troops: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzia and Kherson. People will be voting at gunpoint. Then he will declare it Russia, a land bridge to Crimea. If Ukraine continues attacking there, he'll claim it is grounds for launching a nuclear whatever.

Meanwhile, what millions of Russian families most hated hearing was Putin ordering a partial mobilization of 300,000 military reservists. Husbands and sons must leave their families and fight Putin's war in a place they don't give a damn about ― against Western-armed Ukrainians who are fighting to save their homes and loved ones.

Just hours after Putin's speech aired, young Russian men (and the women who love them) were protesting Putin's war in the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and places across that huge nation. They chanted "Let our children live!" and "Send Putin to the trenches." Russian police arrested more than 1,300 antiwar protesters in those first hours. Police gave the men summonses to report for military duty.

By nightfall, there were massive traffic jams at Russia's borders, as men fled rather than fight Putin's war in Ukraine. Airline tickets reportedly sold out in hours.

Since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Putin solidified his reputation as a global bully. After failing to quickly capture Kyiv, he began the cowardly tactic and blatant war crime of keeping troops in faraway safe havens while launching massive artillery and rocket strikes at innocent Ukraine civilian men, women, children and elderly in hospitals, schools, apartment houses and train stations.

Just hours after Putin's bully pulpit speech, President Joe Biden stood before the United Nations General Assembly and told the world about Putin's war crimes against civilians:
"This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine's right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe…that should make your blood run cold."

Biden and his advisers had just inserted a response to Putin's bully pulpit nuclear blackmail and sham annexation scheme:
"Let us speak plainly. …Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime. …We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine. We will stand in solidarity against Russia's aggression. Period."

What Biden didn't recount for the world was how, in 1994, the United States and Russia jointly resolved a dilemma of the planet's third largest nuclear power. No, not China. Ukraine. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine suddenly was a major nuclear power (with much of Russia's arsenal abandoned there). So, in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and Britain, Ukraine agreed to send its nuclear weapons to Russia. And Russia (also the U.S. and Britain) promised to respect the sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.

But in 2014 Putin declared that promise void when he seized Crimea. Now, at his bully pulpit, he's threatened to go nuclear.

Let us speak plainly: None of us ever wanted to be where we are today ― at the brink of nuclear blackmail. We hate being here. And so do the many prominent and ordinary Russians I got to know, decades ago, across those 11 time zones. Of course, that was back when our generals and Russia's visited each other's nuclear arsenal sites ― way before the Stalinization of Putin became a thing the world dare not ignore.

Almost all of Europe dreads having a neighbor who is a bully. All the world dreads having a global neighbor who is a nuclear bully.

Yet we feel compassion for all those millions of Russians who hate this mess as much as we do. For it is ultimately a problem only they can solve.


Martin Schram (martin.schram@gmail.com), an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. This article was distributed by Tribune Content Agency.



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Putin's bully pulpit - now open to use nukes

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26.09.2022

By Martin Schram

News was being made Wednesday morning at Vladimir Putin's bully pulpit (pardon my redundancy).

Across Russia's 11 time zones, and all around the rest of the world, vast numbers of people hated what they heard Russia's suddenly shaken global bully saying in his videotaped speech. But for different reasons.

What most of the world hated hearing was Putin ― whose invading troops were recently routed by the Ukrainians ― issue the most blatant nuclear blackmail threat since World War II.

Russia's president announced an immediate sham gunpoint election vote to annex as a new part of Russia the eastern Ukraine land his troops still hold. And Putin pointedly warned he'll use all the weapons he has (he means his nukes) if the West tries to stop him.

"If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will of course use all means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people," Putin warned. "This is not a bluff."

Putin's scheme is now clear: In sham votes, he'll annex Ukraine's eastern and southern regions where Russia has troops: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzia and Kherson. People will be voting at gunpoint. Then he will declare it Russia, a land bridge to Crimea. If Ukraine continues attacking there, he'll claim it is........

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