NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 3, 2014

With divided America, Putin sees opportunity

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was studying the sports pages when I joined him for coffee and I asked who won.

“They haven’t run yet,” he said.

“I was referring to the Sox, not horses at some race track,” I said.

“The Derby’s not just some race track, it’s the nation’s showcase for horse trainers, jockeys, and horses,” Freddy said.

“Okay, but how did the Sox do?” I asked.

“Dropped two in a row but so what? They’ve got the whole season ahead, and they’re learning as they go.” Freddy said.

“Speaking of learning we’re apparently not in Washington,” I said. “I don’t know who is taking more political heat over this Ukraine business, the President or the Congress.”

“But not enough by a long shot or we wouldn’t be messing around the way we are with what Putin’s up to,” Freddy said.

“He’s giving us fits, that’s what he’s doing,” I said.

“He’s resurrecting Russian pride,” Freddy said. “It’s been in the pits since the Soviet Union folded, so he not only puts on a great Olympics, Russia comes away with the most first place medals.

“He’s riding high, and that sets the stage for doing what he did to take back the Crimea for sea access which Russia needs.”

“And he turns the whole peace process upside down in the Ukraine,” I said.

“The Ukraine’s a wannabee country, but it has a major role for Russia and that’s resulted in a bad case of the shakes for the European Union,” Freddy said.

“Well Putin certainly doesn’t have the shakes,” I said. “He’s president of Russia, the third most powerful nation in the world. We’re still number one by a hair with China’s a close and gaining second.”

“And there’s Europe,” Freddy said. “It’s not just one country, and it’s dependent on Russia’s gas.

“Business leaders in Germany have just told their chancellor, Angela Merkel, to stop pushing Putin, and French businesses aren’t far behind doing the same.”

“So much for the union of Europe,” I said.

“So much for reality and the need for everyone to realize that a revitalized Russia’s in the making,” Freddy said.

“Say what you want to about Putin, he’s no dummy. He’s more than being a survivor of what didn’t work all that well with the end of the Soviet Union. He’s the lynchpin for change for more than what Russia’s role is going to be because Europe and we are going to have to react to that.”

“You make it sound like he sees himself as more than some kind of political savior of his country,” I said.

“I haven’t a clue as to how he sees himself,” Freddy said.

“What I do see is a middle aged guy in great physical shape who has seen what didn’t work and has a pretty good idea as to why.

“I see a guy who is proud of being a Russian who wants to restore Russian pride in itself and respect from the rest of the world, and he’s going to do what he can about that come Hell or high water.”

“And what do you see for us?” I asked.

“I haven’t a clue, but I hope it will be better than what we’ve been getting for too long because we are a nation divided against itself and nothing good can come of that,” Freddy said.

“Maybe Putin sees us the same way as you,” I said.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” Freddy said.

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Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a former executive editor of The Daily News.