Putin lodged in Crimea like a clump of soggy Wheaties stuck to the side of your cereal bowl

It’s going to take a bit more than a crowbar to pry Russia out of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Vladimir Putin, who has never been confused for Bob Hope, harbors strong personal feelings about the Ukrainian crisis — which he blames on the West.

The Russian strongman sees Ukraine as a defining moment of his 14-year rule and a key turning point for the post-Cold War Europe, one in which Russia mimics the empire of the once Soviet Union.

So it hardly was news today that Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw forces in Ukraine’s Crimea region to their bases amid a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at easing tensions over Ukraine and averting the risk of war.

Putin is a thuggish peacock who relishes commanding center stage.

He acts and speaks with the bravado of a former KGB agent suspicious of Western plots.

Deviousness flows inside him with a microbe’s cunning.

He never is strangled by a contractive spasm of timidity.

When Ukraine was unraveling into a chaotic cacophony of division, Putin moved in with a derisive snort.

It is difficult to feel a there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism that this will end well for the U.S. and the West.

Putin rejected Western accusations of Russian aggression against Ukraine, saying the U.S. should know better, given what it has done.

“We have to remind them about the U.S. action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where they acted without any sanction of the United Nations Security Council, or willfully interpreted its resolution as in the case of Libya,” he said. “Our partners, particularly in the United States, always clearly formulate their geopolitical and state interests and aggressively pursue them. They try to pull the rest of the world under them and start hitting those who put up resistance, eventually finishing them off, as a rule.”

Granted, Putin failed to mention that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, starting a war that lasted for nearly a decade and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Then again, nobody ever accused Putin of being a straight shooter.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about his troops.

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