My PR firm, 5WPR
, has worked extensively in the Ukraine, having represented Vitali Klitschko (current leader of the opposition) during his run for mayor of Kiev, and we have worked for other powerful and wealthy people in the region.
Kharkiv, the city where Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych may have been hiding over the weekend, is where my wife was born and raised. She has spent the past week worried about, and speaking to, family there.
As one who knows and understands the region, it’s clear that neither President Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry understands the strong, proud people of Russia and the Ukraine. When Obama this week said “our approach in the United States is not to see these as some Cold-War chessboard in which we're in competition with Russia,” shows his naiveté. As Senator John McCain rightfully noted, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to succeed in having "played us so incredibly."
Putin is playing chess, and Obama is playing candy crush. Politics has always been about strategy and skill.
With the Ukraine on fire, one can see PR firms and political consultants’ front and center. The largest firm that President Viktor Yanukovych has used in Washington is The Podesta Group, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., which is owned by Tony Podesta, whose brother John Podesta is senior adviser to President Obama.
They have been paid $900,000 over the last two years by the "European Centre for a Modern Ukraine,” a Brussels-based organization sympathetic to Yanukovych and his political party.
While there is no question that Yanukovych’s days are over, the crisis in Ukraine is far from over and this battle is one of power between Russia and America. It’s a question of whether the Ukraine will go the way of the EU, or the way of Putin and Russia.
Putin has shown himself to be a very strong chess player — as we witness Putin besting Obama on issues large and small, including Edward Snowden, Syria, and Iran.
Putin, who has spoken of the fall of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century” is not likely to give up the Ukraine so quickly. Let's hope someone in The Obama administration learns chess.