Christian Caryl writes to Vladimir Putin (with tongue firmly in cheek) to try and avail himself of the doctrine the president has propounded to justify the invasion of Crimea. If Russia can intervene anywhere to protect Russian speakers from any threat, however, negligible; Caryl wonders if the Putin might consider intervening to protect the Russophone population of his native Washington DC from an English speaking population that is “starting to get a bit uppity”?
It so happens that I speak your language. I started studying Russian in high school, and I’ve been studying it for years since then. Maybe I’m not entirely fluent, but I know enough to follow the news.
Which is why I was so thrilled to read the Kremlin’s statement about your March 1 phone call with President Obama: “Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.” What a wonderfully elastic phrase: “the Russian-speaking population.”……….. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians speak some Russian, so just about anyone in the country is potentially in a position to enjoy your protection.
And as for potential threats to us Russian speakers — well, they’re everywhere, aren’t they? When my wife and I were speaking Russian in the supermarket checkout line today, I noticed the cashier giving us dirty looks. And we’re not alone. There are thousands of Russian-speaking immigrants in the suburbs of Washington. If we all gather together in one place, we’d definitely qualify as a “population.”
Okay, so maybe we aren’t “compatriots,” strictly speaking. But you’ve got an easy solution for that, too — you can just give us passports! As freshly minted citizens, we’ll be fully entitled to your protection.
You know what I’m talking about, right? I’ve seen those images of your officials handing out shiny new Russian passports to members of Berkut, the Ukranian riot police who are the main folks responsible for the killing of 88 demonstrators in the center of Kiev during the EuroMaidan Revolution. Now, if anyone knows how to take care of themselves, surely it’s these guys — yet you’re going out of your way to guarantee that crucial extra bit of insurance. Could there be any better example of the broad, generous Russian soul at work?
This is precisely what satire should be used for: exposing the absurdity of the positions of those in power.
Putin’s reasoning for his bundling into the Crimea may only be a pretension. However, it still holds dangers for Russia. Caryl applies it to Russian speakers in far flung places for humorous effect. It might be rather less funny if China started applying it to the large Mandarin speaking population in Russia’s far east.