Forbes.com – OPINION

The United States and Europe do not know how to read Vladimir Putin. He is, for the Western mind, a strange laboratory specimen, who grew up in the KGB world of conspiracy and repression of enemies who are everywhere. We do not understand him and what he is really saying.

Any positive remark, no matter how small, turns Putin into a budding man of peace. (I am reminded of hopes that Bashar Assad would become a reformer). After Putin exchanged a few words with Ukraine’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, and with Barack Obama and expressed his liking for an (unacceptable) type of peace dialog, John Kerry spoke optimistically of “the possibility of Russia helping to get the separatists to begin to put their guns away, get out of buildings and begin to build Ukraine.” (See the Reuters report.) A Secretary of State should not engage in wishful thinking out loud.

Putin uses unfamiliar code words like “federalism” that sound reasonable to the uninitiated, but in practice mean the end of Ukraine as a unitary state. The press ignores his wild propaganda flights of fancy of swarms of Ukrainian extremist neo-Nazi killers or his claims that there are no Russian mercenaries in east Ukraine. (See Putin’s June 6 press conference.) Putin’s D-Day handshake-discussion with Poroshenko sent the press into a frenzy of optimism. The two had agreed to talk! Peace must be around the corner. Europe breathed a sigh of relief: We don’t have to talk about sanctions that might hurt our own economies.

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