Lobbying for foreign interests: where are the patriots?

 

coins

All for a few coins.

Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor, had a lucrative $530,000 lobbying contract with Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based consulting firm owned by a Turkish national.

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to federal charges, including failing to register for lobbying they did for Viktor Yanukovych, the thoroughly corrupt former president of Ukraine, and his pro-Russian political party. A popular uprising ousted Yanukovych in 2014.

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Anti-government protesters clash with the police at the central Kiev square in the Ukraine

Thousands of Syrians were dead and Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey were hosting Syrian refugees as Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, pursued a war to new heights of brutality.

syrianrefugees

Syrian refugees.

But the war and refugees weren’t U.S. lobbying firm Brown Lloyd James’ concern. For a fee of $5,000 a month, the firm promoted a positive image for Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma. The firm’s efforts paid off when American Vogue magazine published “A Rose in the Desert”, a fawning article about Asma, her British roots, designer fashions and good works.

ASMA

“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert, Vogue.

The Vogue story praised the Assads as a “wildly democratic” family-focused couple who vacationed in Europe, fostered Christianity, were at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the “safest country in the Middle East,” and wanted to give Syria a “brand essence.”

American lobbying firms and so-called think tanks have shown time and time again that they have no compunction about fronting for vile foreign donors or representing foreign countries trying to minimize criticism of their human rights abuses or advance positions potentially inimical to American interests.

 

At least 77 U.S. firms have represented 170 governmental or pseudo-governmental entities of the Soviet Union/Russia trying to influence U.S. policy since 1950, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Early this year, the Egyptian government hired Washington, D.C.-based firm Weber Shandwick and then-subsidiary Cassidy & Associates to enhance public perception of Egypt and its intelligence agency.

EgyptSissi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi

Since Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took office as president, the internal intelligence agency, Amn al-Watany, has lived up to its reputation for harassing veteran activists, worker organizations, professional unions and what remains of the student activist movement, according to World Politics Review, which analyzes critical global trends. Prominent dissidents—including iconic figures from the 2011 uprisings, such as the leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement—continue to be held in prisons or are subject to surveillance and control by the state security forces.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) governs registration of agents for foreign interests. In its 2017 FARA filings, BLJ Worldwide said it represents the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) a non-profit based in Hong Kong that describes itself as engaging in promoting relations and facilitating exchanges between China and the United States.

According to the filing, BLJ was very busy promoting China’s interests in the first half of 2017. The firm supported trips to China by reporters from all these U.S. media outlets: Slate; Quartz NFR; The Daily Beast; NBC News; Bloomberg; Businessweek; The New Yorker; The Des Moines Register; the Grand Rapids Free Press; the Chicago Tribune; and Independent Journal Review.

BLJ also hosted a dinner for representatives from CNN, Financial Times, the Economist, Associated Press, Bloomberg and CNBC.

AL-Monitor, which analyzes the trends shaping the future of the Middle East, won the 2017 Online Journalism Award for Explanatory Reporting for a series on how the Gulf States have been throwing money left and right in an effort to undercut Qatar in the eyes of President Donald Trump and undo Obama’s fledgling reconciliation with Iran.

According to Maplight, a non-profit which works to reveal the influence of money in politics, lobbyists for foreign interests gave more than $4.5 million to federal lawmakers and candidates during the 2016 election. Foreign lobbyists and their firms’ political action committees were also responsible for packaging a total of $5.9 million in donations for candidates and party committees, through an influence-enhancing tactic known as “bundling.”

Because the donations come from foreign governments’ U.S.-based lobbyists, they effectively circumvent American laws designed to bar direct foreign donations, Maplight reported. Under federal law, foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to any federal, state, or local campaigns, or political parties. But foreign governments frequently hire U.S. citizens to represent their interests, and those people face no such contribution ban.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thinks he has a way to address all this. He wants to strengthen FARA. To that end, he has introduced legislation that would substantially increase FARA disclosure requirements.

But in my view the issue isn’t just disclosure. It’s also the willingness of American businesses to put the interests of foreign powers over those of the United States.

As citizens of the United States we should respect others and try to understand different viewpoints, but that doesn’t mean American lobbyists should take foreign money to advance the influence of foreign thugs and undermine U.S. interests.

Have they no shame?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Manafort mess: I’m shocked, shocked!

casablanca-17

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!,” said Captain Renault in Casablanca, as a croupier handed him a pile of money.

I feel the same way about comments from political figures in the U.S., including Hillary Clinton, who have expressed astonishment and dismay over allegations that Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, provided campaign assistance to Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was forced to flee from Ukraine to Russia in 2014 after violent several months of political crisis and violent protests.

I’m equally unsurprised by attempts to tar Manafort as a villain because he has lobbied in the U.S. for Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines

Hillary Clinton’s campaign leapt at the chance to draw blood. “Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them,” said Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook.

Good grief. Everybody’s in such high dudgeon.

But wait a minute.

We’re not all rubes, as so many politicians and media outlets assume. We know that Washington, D.C. is packed with public relations professionals and lobbyists who work for foreign governments and special interests, many of them with reputations for corruption and human rights abuses.

Take John Podesta, the Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In 1988, he and his brother, Tony, founded Podesta Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C., government relations and public affairs lobbying firm. The firm later changed its name to the Podesta Group, Inc.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, which works to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent, the Podesta Group has been a registered agent, or lobbyist, for a number of foreign governments, including the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the National Security Council of Georgia, the Republic of Kosova, the Government of Albania and the Kingdom of Thailand.

In 2013, for example, the Podesta Group reported being paid $840,196.21 by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The previous year, the corruption watchdog Transparency International awarded the crown of “Corrupt Person of the Year” to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. “Despite its massive oil resources, … Azerbaijan is plagued by endemic corruption that prevents ordinary Azerbaijanis from sharing in their country’s natural wealth and is a significant barrier to Azerbaijan’s development,” the organization said.

That same year, public protests against human rights abuses led to brutal crackdowns, arrests, and undemocratic trials.

2013 was another awkward time for the Government of Azerbaijan when election authorities released vote results re-electing Aliyev – a full day before voting had even started. The announcement followed intimidation of activists and journalists and free speech restrictions.

Freedom House, a promoter of global human rights, lambasted the country’s government. “Azerbaijan is ruled by an authoritarian regime characterized by intolerance for dissent and disregard for civil liberties and political rights,” the organization said in 2013.

The federal  Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. There are about  2,000 foreign agents registered under the Act representing more than 100 countries.

Late last year, the Center for Public Integrity released a study, “The hired guns who advocate for the world’s worst human rights abusers” – a research report that highlighted the PR firms that make the most money representing clients that violate human rights.

The study said FARA records revealed that “that the 50 countries with the worst human rights violation records have spent $168 million on American lobbyists and public relations specialists since 2010.”

The study said the leader of the pack was Omnicom-owned Ketchum PR, which made $37 million representing human-rights violators, followed by Qorvis Communications/MSL Group at $20.6 Million dollars.

In 2013, Ketchum was behind a Vladimir Putin-led PR push tied to Syria. When the New York Times ran a highly visible op-ed about Syria submitted by Russian President Putin in Sept. 2013, Ketchum arranged it (and likely wrote it).

“From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future,” Putin said. “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” The op-ed went on to say, “Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force…”

According to ProPublica and Ketchum reports, Russia paid $1.3 million for Ketchum’s professional services for the period ended in May 2013.

In 2014, the New York Times reported how Angus Roxburgh, a former Ketchum consultant and journalist for the BBC and The Economist, recounted his experiences working with Ketchum. “The Russian officials…were initially convinced they could pay for better coverage, or intimidate journalists into it,” Roxburgh told the Times. “They were eventually persuaded to take reporters to dinner instead.”

According to the Times, Roxburgh told The Daily Beast that Ketchum’s aim “means helping them (Russia) disguise all the issues that make it unattractive: human rights, invasions of neighboring countries, etc.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia, under fire for human rights abuses, hired a cornucopia of U.S. PR/lobbying firms to tell its story in a favorable way and influence legislation.

In March, the Saudi Royal Embassy retained DLA Piper and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. That same month, it also hired Targeted Victory, which uses expansive data to put together digital campaigns for political clients, and Zignal Labs, which uses big data analytics, media monitoring and business intelligence to provide insights that drive public outreach efforts. In September 2015, the Saudi government expanded its efforts further by signing contracts with PR leviathan Edelman and the Podesta Group.

Just a few things to remember when attack dogs and establishment politicians, including Hillary Clinton, feign surprise and horror at amoral U.S. PR and lobbying firms doing business with foreign governments and foreign leaders with bad reputations.

Don’t be shocked.

 

Addendum

On 8/25/16, PoliticoPlaybook reported that the FBI and DOJ are looking into the Podesta Group’s work in Ukraine:

K STREET WATCH  The FBI and DOJ’s probes into the Podesta Group’s work for a non-profit tied to the former Ukrainian government are sending shockwaves downtown, where the investigation into the firm’s work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine has led to widespread nervousness. Reps from multiple firms who lobby for foreign entities think this might be a tipping point, and the feds might take a much broader look at other firms and clients. “It’s right in the purview of the DOJ – they don’t need a referral,” said one lobbyist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

American businesses: meet your future job applicants

When Ellis Island opened in 1892, it welcomed immigrants escaping war, drought, famine and religious persecution and hoping America would offer them a new start.

Today, the Hillsboro School District is welcoming an increasingly diverse group of students, many of whom left their homes around the world because of brutal wars, punishing poverty, religious and political conflict, violence and/or a simple desire for a better life.

Tobias Elementary School, for example, is filling with children from Central America, Mexico, Ukraine, Thailand, Cambodia, Somalia, Egypt, Iraq and other countries speaking up to 30 languages. The mix depends, to some degree, on where the greatest turmoil and unrest is occurring, according to Steve Callaway, Tobias’ principal.

somalistudents

Many of these students are from low-income and, in many cases, low-educated, families where English is not the first language at home, behaviors and value systems vary widely and the American culture is not deeply embedded.

The shift has been dramatic. In the 1999-2000 school year, Tobias was largely white and culturally homogenous, with just 6.3 percent of the student body from principally mobile Hispanic migrant families and more from a smattering of other ethnicities, including Asian children whose parents worked in high-tech.

By the 2013-2014 school year, minority students from diverse cultures outnumbered white students at Tobias for the first time:

White: 47.8 percent.

Black: 3.5 percent.

Hispanic: 24.7 percent.

Asian/Pacific Islander: 12.2 percent.

American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0.6 percent.

Multiethnic: 11.3 percent.

The trend at Tobias is being replicated at the rest of Hillsboro’s schools, which were 49.5 percent white in the 2013-2014 school year.

Hillsboro School District demographics
Ethnicity No. of students Pct. of students
American Indian 174 0.83
Black 439 2.10
Hispanic 7,475 35.67
Asian 1,341 6.40
Pacific Islander 163 0.78
Multiethnic 965 4.74
White 10,368 48.48
TOTAL 20,955 100.00

Concentrations of children from particular ethnic groups are occurring in certain Hillsboro schools because their families want to live in close proximity. This has led, for example, to 19 Somali students attending Hillsboro’s Imlay Elementary School in the 2013-2014 school year and 15 this school year.

The U.S. Department of Education projects that minorities will outnumber whites among the nation’s public school students for the first time this fall. In other words, the minorities will become the majority.

What this means in the longer term is that Hillsboro’s workforce of the future is going to look quite different from today. Hillsboro’s economic viability and America’s greatness will be diminished if we don’t do all we can to educate these ethnically and culturally diverse children.

It’s critical that we prepare them for success as creative problem solvers and engaged community members in work and life. It’s also essential that we inculcate in them a belief in the American Dream and a commitment to the kind of effort that will bring them social and economic mobility.

“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” says Callaway. There are so many ways local businesses can show much they care about preparing children for work.

Companies can open their facilities to students who want to learn more about the world of work and career options by offering job shadows and paid internships. “All students need to be more aware of what job opportunities are out there,” says Leslie Smith Mayfield, a 3rd grade teacher and STEM Coordinator at Tobias. “We need help from business to expose kids, even in the elementary grades, to what options there are in the real world. Some bright kids are going to go to waste if they don’t realize the options they can work towards.”

Awareness also needs to expand to the skilled trades, which can offer well-paid, stable careers. For example, Callaway says he’d welcome having IBEW workers come in to teach kids about basic electrical circuitry.

Elaine Philippi, manager of student programs at the Business Education Compact, talks up the BEC STEM Connect TM Initiative. Volunteers from a business visit a school at least four times in an academic year, educating the students about their company, engaging students in activities that promote STEM concepts and collaborative processes and helping out at a science night or other community event.

Employees at local businesses can also get involved by helping with field trips, providing reading assistance, giving technical demonstrations, and even presenting on their hobbies. Astronomy and geology hobbyists, for example, have visited Tobias classrooms.

Businesses can give grants of all sizes to enable schools to offer innovative programs. For example, a Tobias teacher secured a grant to support an engineering math program for 6th grade girls.

Equipment can be donated to enhance the learning experience.

Companies can form partnerships with local schools, as FEI, Intel and Vernier have already done with Tobias.

All of this could help boost achievement levels and increase completion rates at Hillsboro’s increasingly diverse schools. That will benefit the local business community down the road when these youngsters enter the job market.

Watch video about Tobias Elementary School

This blog also appeared as a column in the Hillsboro Argus, October 1, 2014

Things fall apart

I was enjoying a coffee and pastry at a Starbucks this morning when a man sitting next to me checking his smartphone and reading the paper turned and said, “It looks like the rebels or the Russians might have shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 300 people. Do you get the feeling everything is just unraveling?”

Yes.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

Tens of thousands of children of all ages, most unaccompanied by adults, are flowing across the U.S. Southwest border. Frustration and anger is bubbling up all over the country. Some people are arguing that President Obama has encouraged the stream of immigrants and that strong steps need to be taken to control the U.S. border and send the immigrants home. Others argue the immigrants need to be treated with compassion and welcomed to America with open arms in the spirit of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Whichever side you are on, and just about everybody seems to have taken sides, just 28% of the public approves of the way President Obama is handling the surge of children from Central America, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center or the People & the Press.

Meanwhile, violence is spreading in Gaza and Israel after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank set off a new cycle of violence in the region.

While Hamas militants and Israel exchange rocket fire, stories multiply of civilian deaths, including a story today reporting that four boys, ages 9 to 11, were killed on a beach west of Gaza City.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

Of course, the only reason similar horrifying stories of civilian killings by the Hamas militants haven’t surfaced in Israel is because of its effective anti-rocket defenses.

In Ukraine, tension continues as Russia threatens the country, pro-Russian militants fight the government’s forces and, as noted earlier, rumors swirl that a Malaysian Airlines plane with 295 on board, including some Americans, that crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border was deliberately shot down. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev asserted that the “the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system.”

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

In Egypt, after a popular uprising resulted in the first democratically-elected Islamic president in Egypt’s history, forces led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew the fledgling president and instigated an unforgiving campaign of retaliation against the Muslim Brotherhood and regime critics that continues to this day.

In Syria, after Obama insisted that use of chemical weapons by the the Assad regime would be “a red line for us,” Obama dithered and the civil war escalated, creating a country scarred with destruction and pushing out hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring counries.

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In Afghanistan, scene of what Obama called “the good war” that needed to be fought, chaos has ensued since the U.S. precipitously withdrew its troops.

In Iraq, after thousands of American soldiers gave their lives in an effort to create a sustainable peace, the U.S.-backed Shia-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initiated a cleansing of the Sunni minority. Now we have a violent struggle going on in Iraq with mostly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

Meanwhile, despite a roaring stock market, economic insecurity reigns. Just 19% of those surveyed by Pew say economic conditions in the U.S. are excellent or good while 81% rate conditions as only fair or poor. About six-in-ten (62%) still say jobs are difficult to find locally.

Detroit Area Economy Worsens As Big Three Automakers Face Dire Crisis

Obama’s rating for handling the economy also has stayed negative, with 56% disapproving of the way Obama is handling the economy, according to the Pew survey. In fact, Obama’s job rating on the economy has been around 40% for most of the past five years.

Meanwhile, Obama, “a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House,” as the New York Times puts it, jets around the world for fundraisers and dinners with celebrities and wealthy supporters, taking as many breaks as he can for golf.

Barack Obama

Unravelling? You bet.

Forget about freedom in Ukraine; there’s money to be made

Crass. Imbecilic. Disgraceful.

It’s hard to pick a word that works when American businesses take to the Wall Street Journal today to run a full page ad arguing that confronting Russia over its invasion of Crimea in Ukraine is not in America’s best interests.

“America’s interests are at stake in Russia and Ukraine,”  the ad, placed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, blares in bold print.  “Sanctions hurt American interests…We are concerned about actions that would harm American manufacturers and cost American jobs…It’s time to put American jobs and growth first.”

First before what? Before respect for human dignity? Before the right of a nation’s people to choose their own government?  Before support for the principle of territorial integrity as stated in the United Nations Charter?

ukraine

“Democracy and respect for human rights have long been central components of U.S. foreign policy,” the U. S. Department of State says. “Supporting democracy not only promotes such fundamental American values as religious freedom and worker rights, but also helps create a more secure, stable, and prosperous global arena in which the United States can advance its national interests.”

America has been promoting democracy around the world since its founding under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Now we shouldn’t care about the rights of the Ukrainians if there are profits at stake?

How low can we go?

Berlin Redux: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

In July 2009, speaking at Moscow’s New Economic School, Obama said long-standing assumptions that the US and Russia were antagonists vying for spheres of influence were inaccurate.

“Given our interdependence, any world order that tries to elevate one value or people over another will inevitably fail,” he said. “That is why I have called for a ‘reset’ in relations between the United States and Russia. This must be more than a fresh start between the Kremlin and the White House, though that is important.”

“It must be a sustained effort among the American and Russian people to identify mutual interests, and to expand dialogue and co-operation that can pave the way to progress,” he added.

Obama calls for reset of U.S.-Russian relations in 2009

Obama calls for reset of U.S.-Russian relations in 2009

All this just 12 months after Bush’s hopes for better relations with Russia had been shattered by its war with Georgia.

Now, five years later, Russia has annexed the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine and the United States is sitting by helplessly.

Obama has said that Russia, by its actions in Crimea, is on the wrong side of history.

Perhaps Obama is forgetting history.

In 1933, Adolph Hitler emphatically proclaimed Germany’s commitment to peace.

“The German government “…is…of the conviction that there can only be one great task in our time: securing peace in the world,” he declared to the Reichstag. “The German Government wishes to engage in peaceful discussions with the other nations on all difficult questions,” he added.

Hitler proclaims Germany's pursuit of peace

Hitler proclaims Germany’s pursuit of peace

That same year, however, Hitler laid the groundwork for what would become the pretext for forcefully absorbing other countries. “We have particularly at heart the fate of the Germans living beyond the frontiers of Germany who are allied with us in speech, culture, and customs and have to make a hard fight to retain these values,” he said in a policy statement submitted to the Reichstag on March 23, 1933. “The national Government is resolved to use all the means at its disposal to support the rights internationally guaranteed to the German minorities,” he said.

When Germany annexed Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in 1939, it was justified as an effort to “liberate” the predominantly German area and protect the abused ethnic German population . Foregoing action, Britain and France chose to negotiate a deal that preserved “peace in our time”.

Austria was next. In March 1938, a coup d’état was engineered by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria’s state institutions in Vienna and Germany annexed Austria into the Third Reich that same month. The Nazis then held a plebiscite allowing the people to vote on the annexation and claimed that the vote in favor was 99.8 percent. (Sound familiar?)

The reaction from the Allies? Mostly words.

It wasn’t until Germany and the Soviets invaded Poland in 1939 that Britain and France declared war on Germany, too late to stop the Soviets and Nazis from slaughtering millions of Jews and Polish intelligentsia through starvation, forced labor and mass killings.

The Russian portion of Poland, by the way, was incorporated within Russia by Soviet “elections” and Russian citizenship was conferred on the Polish inhabitants. (Sound familiar?)

Allied action also came too late for Ukraine, which was overrun by the Nazis in 1941 after years of brutal killings under Stalin, during which millions of Ukrainians were murdered and millions more were sent to concentration camps.

Now we have Putin talking about the need to “protect” ethic Russians in Eastern Ukraine.

“It’s all nonsense. There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens.” Russia's President Vladimir Putin

“It’s all nonsense. There are no kinds of Russian units in eastern Ukraine. No special forces, no instructors. They are all local citizens.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

On April 17, 2014, in a televised Q&A session with the Russian public, Putin observed that the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, had granted him the right to use military force in Ukraine. “I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today’s pressing issues via political and diplomatic means,” he said.

And today, with Russian-connected demonstrators fomenting unrest in Eastern Ukraine, Russia had the gall to accuse the new Ukrainian government of flouting a just concluded agreement intended to diffuse the crisis. “The Geneva accord is not only not being fulfilled, but steps are being taken, primarily by those who seized power in Kiev, that are grossly breaching the agreements reached,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a press conference in Moscow.

Here we go again?