More pain to come unless Putin pulls his head in
IT'S fashionable to dismiss Putin as yet another pint-sized megalomaniac in the image of Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler and Mao.
And that may be true, as the man is definitely a shameless corrupt bully whose moral compass exploded into smithereens when he was a rising star in the KGB, an organisation that ranks with the German SS among the vilest repressive organisations in modern world history.
But is that what his invasion of Crimea, part of the sovereign state of Ukraine is all about?
There are three conventional historical theories about aggressors who do this sort of thing.
They do it because they find bullying orgasmic. They do it because they feel driven to impose their supposedly superior socio-political system or religious dogma on others.
Or they do it for economic reasons.
Putin? It seems evident that he has feet in two of them.
I doubt that he has the moral fibre within his puffed-up vertically challenged body either to believe in or wish to impose Russia's socio-political system on neighbours. Too cynical!
That leaves the love of bullying and a driving need to benefit economically.
He has got away with this abomination to this point for two reasons.
Ukranians in Crimea identify with Russia and overwhelming supported the corrupt ex-president Yanukovych, now in hiding along with his ill-gotten gains probably in Russia.
Secondly, the United Nations can only tut-tut because as a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia can veto any attempt to do anything more effective.
But the financially savvy in Russia are apparently smarter than Putin. Last Monday week, the Russian currency went into free-fall, the share market nose-dived and the price of gold soared. Why?
Putin has invaded Crimea because it may ensure that short-term at least virtually land-locked Russia will have access to ports in the Black Sea.
Like any country Russia needs to export its goods and services to survive economically.
The only way for it to do so by land is over territory that is either Europe itself or leans politically towards the European Union.
Members of the EU are also members of the Western defence bloc NATO, effectively led by the US.
Russia is the world's largest producer of oil, about 60% of Russia's exports are comprised of oil and natural gas, more than 70% of Russian crude oil is exported.
There are two options for exporting oil and gas: pipelines and ships. Russia's only alternative to the Black Sea ports is access to the regularly frozen Arctic Sea ports. Enough said?
So what will happen? Not war.
The Yanks have no stomach for it after decades in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO will impose trade embargoes on Russia, effectively cutting it off from its markets.
They can do it because since the Egyptian coup, Middle East OPEC member countries are as stable as they've been in years and can ramp up supplies.
And the Americas are fast becoming net exporters, not importers of oil and gas. Ordinary Russians have had a taste of the effects of dried-up demand.
Their country suffered terribly when the effects of the global financial crisis. An extremely deep recession. As the financially savvy there know, there's more to come unless Putin pulls his head in.