If you believe all the talk out there lately, Vladimir Putin is not only duplicitous and hypocritical—the Russian president’s also been pretty damn busy recently. Busy cutting secret deals with the same Europeans and Americans he has been vilifying for years. And if you believe the rumors, the Europeans and Americans have also been busy selling out Ukraine to the Russians.
Not that any of this would be unusual or particularly surprising. Cynicism, duplicity, and hypocrisy are often the reserve currencies of politics, where interests tend to trump values.
There have long been suspicions that the United States and Europe might give Ukraine up in exchange for Russia’s support in securing a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Washington has been seeking Moscow’s backing in securing a managed, orderly, and negotiated exit for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which would go a long way toward ending the conflict in that country.
And over the past two weeks, speculation has intensified that some kind of quid pro quo has in fact been reached with Putin. It began in earnest on July 14 when U.S. President Barack Obama praised Russia’s role in securing a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The suspicion only increased two days later, on July 16, when U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled to Ukrainian capital of Kiev to persuade lawmakers to include language in amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution recognizing the special status of separatist-held areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. This is something Russia has long sought, but that Ukraine had been resisting.