Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Onslaught (Ultra Class: Universe Classics 2.0)

Transformers: Universe Classics 2.0/ Onslaught (Ultra Class)

Here, we are looking at 2008's Ultra Class Onslaught.  He was fashioned into a larger commander bot with serious armament and intimidating size after a smaller version of him was created for the combiner Combaticon set of Bruticus Maximus also in the Universe toy line.

Instead of being a flatbed military truck with mobile artillery gun, he is now an armored tactical S.W.A.T. vehicle.  The translation works pretty well as he retains major qualities like big tires, a double barreled cannon, similar headsculpt and color scheme.  He works very well for me and I wish they released his buddies on this scale to make an Ultra Combiner based on these molds.  I would love to see a Ultra class Swindle, Brawl or Vortex.  The stuff coming from Warbotron in this department is leaving little to be desired...seriously check out Heavy Noisy or Sly Strike and tell me those aren't dead on G1 faces.  (Is it possible for something in 2014 to look more "G1" than the original G1?)


He combines fairly easy with a fold out read section of wheels that converge to his feet with armor plating with bendable knees and hip joints.  He has electronic features that make a blaster noise, a crushing noise and a siren noise. I scored an early version that had a bug in the sound that only lets it play in 1 second bursts so there is no prolonged sounds of machine gun or sirens as was intended and later released in the U.S and Japanese versions.  Point of note, the Takara version also had colors that directly matched the original G1 toy while these seem a bit darker.

He's got a nice headsculpt with light up eyes on a battery jointed arms and shoulders with a flip out cannon on his right wrist and a flip out holder on his left to hold a detachable S.W.A.T. shield. (A feature I absolutely love)  It makes him look like a freaking gladiator in my opinion and it seriously rules.  His cannon is essentially not functioning on his back and only really works if you make him bend over.  I tried and he really cannot do it without looking totally stupid and needing a hand to prop him up.  In his vehicle mode, he is meant to look armored and bulky and it works well.  His wrist gun is belly mounted and he has two flip down spiked battering devices hinged on the helm of the vehicle.  While the shield can be positioned onto the top for an armored roof, it doesn't feel like it belongs there if they are trying to make this look realistic.  I find with a nice suspension of disbelief put into place, you can make the design work.

This guy truly reinvents Onslaught and lives up to his name....Just wish his main cannon could be better utilized in bot mode.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers - Generations: Cosmos and Payload (Legends Class)... and Hasbro minirant

Transformers Generations: Cosmos and Payload (Legends Class)

I picked this small set up a few weeks back at my local Target and have been meaning to do something with these guys.  I originally wanted to pick up Swerve, Tailgate and Shrapnel...oh right, Skrapnel (whatever).  So far, this has been a bit hard.

Sufficed to say, the newer generations legends class figures are rare as hell to find.  I actually HELD a Swerve and Flanker in my hand and put it back on the shelf thinking...ah, well the fact that he's sitting in Target means we're done with the Starscream, Megatron, Bumblebee, Optimus waves that have been pegwarming for a year now...to my chagrin only discovered on my next visit with intent to buy that not only Swerve was long gone but THREE racks were filled with Optimus Legends figures....which have sat now for about a month.

Seriosuly (mini-rant) but again, Hasbro, why do you have this ball-itching quality to compulsively clog your toy lines with pegwarmers at every turn while refusing to properly distribute lines of figures people want...first of all...NOBODY wants a tiny Optimus Prime that's Bumblebee sized! Let alone three racks of him.  What are you thinking? Even from a little kid's perspective..."Hmmm...do I want a tiny little OP or this nice sized chromed out one with a full sized Grimlock for fifteen extra dollars or a nice foot tall AoE figure for 5 bucks more?"  So you do this...while you develop an honestly great run of original sculpts with great paint and package art which coincide with a great IDW series and just refuse to distribute them and not carry them on your own website...but to add insult to injury state you plan to offer repaints of the exact same pegwarmers! (a la Nemesis Prime and Cliffjumper which I can only hope are ways to pawn off the overstock of wave 1 figures which would be smart but probably is incorrect)...This is on top of offering stupid "exclusive" TRU Masterpiece variants like Acid Storm who sat for a whole year and is on clearance now or (now upcoming) Sunfire.   We still haven't gotten a MP Thrust, Dirge or Ramjet which I would jump at for any of them.  Or how about the garish and tacky Gold and Transparent "year of the horse" Optimus Prime...Why not just re-releasing MP-01 that everyone is dying to get another shot at since even the KO without the trailer is going for 110.00 on ioffer.com?  Nah, let's clog the stores with a giant expensive shelf jammers while short supplying desired products like MP Soundwave and super-undersupplying MP Grimlock...honestly, did he even make it to some stores after his whole half hour that he was posted on TRU.com for sale.  TRU just pulled this shit with preorders for leader class Jetfire who was on the site for a whole 3 days before they removed the sale.  If the figure isn't even released yet, why can't the sellers just take indefinite preorders and send the numbers to the supplier for fulfillment... does Hasbro and Toy's  R Us just NOT like making money???

OK, I'm done.

The figure is a great, albeit, super hard to find Legends Class figure. The Universe line also put out a remake of this cool minibot but I just never felt like shelling the 20 plus on him on ebay.  This little guy is a perfect update of the original G1 version that really left much to be desired.  I know Takara and Hasbro were working with what undiscerning buyers deemed acceptable back in the 80's hence such an awkward little original figure but this guy is truly an Action figure meaning you can pose him and he has positionable arms, legs and waist!  The first guy as with many of the G1 line could do just about one thing in bot mode...stand up straight and/or point a gun if he was packed with on and has a peghole in his hand which wasn't always the case.

This version of Cosmos has an added bonus, he's also a very small targetmaster as he is packed with a cannon Targetmaster named Payload who transforms into a space shuttle which is an awesome touch I love with this new line of Legends.  He's simple but detailed and makes for a nice extra addition with an almost too simple transformation between weapon, bot and ship but nothing out of the ordinary for a mini-con or micromaster.  

Figure-wise, Cosmos is a great build with a lot of articulation for a figure his size, great paint detailing and tons of grooves, engine detailing, and paneling on his ship mold.  The ship has some cool grey cannons on the bottom, three windows on the front, a tail rudder with tow yellow engines.  Snazzy. 

 In Bot-mode, he has nice sturdy hands and feet with ball jointed legs, a rotating waist and articulation at the elbows and knees.  For a little guy, he looks like he can pack a punch.  His paint is very nice with bright yellows and greens with some extra care put into his face. (as expressionless as it is)  Even payload has a couple colors in there with nice attention to detail, especially on his ships front window paneling.

If you can find this pair, grab them up or prepare to get fleeced on Evil-bay.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters - Shockwave (Voyager Class)

Transformers Prime / Beast Hunters: Voyager Class Shockwave

This'll be  a quickie.  I already said I recently started back up on some fairly modern Transformers (most stuff from the 2000's up to now.  One of the first figures that caught my eye through some stylish tumbler photos (honestly some of the toy photography on that feed is amazing) was this guy and I had to have him.  I managed to score him for 14 bucks compete with shipping which was a pretty nice deal.  This character has held a special place in my heart since my very first memories of toys as he and Jetfire were my first bots G1 I received for Christmas.  I loved his blaster alt mode and was deeply saddened when he went missing forever. I did get him back albeit through Chinese KO format but its all the same to me, he looks great and I had nothing bad to say about him in my previous review

When his incarnation was featured in the Fall of Cybertron figure line, I jumped at it but was  disappointed at the space ship cannon he turned into and the overall lighter weight to his feel for a deluxe which I paid 18 or so for at Wal-Mart. I sold him off after a few weeks and was pretty disgusted.  In retrospect after knowing about Tidal Wave/ AKA Shockwave in Japan and seeing he was originally a purple and grey space cannon it made a lot more sense.  Seriously, if you wanna read this figure's whole history and crazy origins, read this amazing Transformers article.
Considering he wasn't even a Diaclone and was his own damn standalone robot figure is impressive.

So onto this guy.  He's got the beast motif with horns, spikes and ragged teeth-like protuberances.  All works great and he looks very ready for battle. Really, I see some photos of a battle against Springer calling my name as I type this with a nice purple against green theme.   His colors are vibrant with great light piping through his one even cycloptic eye.  He has a nice gimmick on his arm which spins and exposes a nice internal weapon on his arm-cannon and his alt-mode tank treads unravel and turn into an ammo belt which attaches to his arm.  He also has translucent piped plastic on his chest to enhance reflection and glow.  He's a beautiful figure all the way to the headsculpt with nice articulation although my figures right leg is incredibly loose at the hip.

In his alt-mode, he turns into a giant artillery/ railgun looking thing.  I'm not crazy about it but the bot-mode definitely makes up for it.  He transforms easy enough and his alt-cannon mode is sturdy with nice small wheels to help him slide around and the central gun is a cool touch with treaded tracks in the back.  Very Beast Hunter-y and if you like the animal look, also included are some rubber claws and a face maw to attach to the front which I've never done because I hate how it looks.  If you like this, great... If you like the orange add ons in purble and green, check out the Takara "Transformer, Go!" redecoed version.

Verdict: If you love Shockwave or want to give the Beast Hunters line a shot while the figures are still sanely priced and accessible, give this guy a definite look.  He's totally worth it!

Toy Review: Transformers Prime - Wheeljack

Transformers Prime: Wheeljack

This great figure just came in the mail yesterday and I couldn't be happier.  He's a very slickly presented Autobot Ferrari Testarossa  with high stylization, great paint application and a nice sturdy but poseable frame.  I love the modern take on the great G1 (Porsche) favorite while still holding onto some of the nice aesthetics that made the original Wheeljack so iconic.   Hell, any version of him with legs that are actual legs is a 1up to the original blocky fellow.

He comes equipped with two samurai katana swords which attach to the front of his vehicle mode or underneath for stowage as well as (I'm not sure if intentional) in the slots in his shoulders to make nice makeshift sheaths.  Decent touch and I've noticed a lot of swords and weaponry with the newer figures with swords and shields for various figures.  Hey, gotta  have something to slice those cannon fodder vehicons up with, right?  In the animated series, they deflect energon blasts.  His articulation is fine with bendable joints in all the right places at wrists, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees and every part of him looks great with little if any kibble and my only gripe would be that his back fins don't branch how like the old school "wings" did but that's more for nostalgia's sake since it works for me.  I'm more stating it should be an option even it's not one I'd pursue.

He's got a nice headsculpt with little lightpiping however and doesn't have the slight up side portions of his head as in his Generations model.   However this doesn't happen on the show so no worries.  His head is also presented with his battle faceplate up to more harken the look of his G1 incarnation.  When down he's got a much more articulated humanoid face a la Optimus Prime.

Due to the fact that I'm on a pretty restricted budget, I'm having to be pretty choosy with my purchases as of lately.  I researched the various Wheeljacks and landed on this guy.  His exact replica is available from the Takara Arms-Micron line where he comes packed with a little cool Micron weapon which would have been an instant win for me, however, the AM line don't have much in the line of paint aps (strange for Takara) and in lieu of this, decals are included.  From comparing shots between the two models, I just think the Hasbro painted apps look richer and cleaner than I ever could do with my hands.

I freaking love this guy and am glad he's my first Prime Series figure who arrived.  I have a deluxe Starscream on the way and will keep you posted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Transformers: Armada - Tidal Wave

 I have recently started rebuilding and reformatting my Transformers collection.  Pretty much done with G1 and G2 due to expense and the annoyance of collecting dozens of little pieces...(did you ever look at how much stuff comes with a Pretender figure???) and am focusing on moderns.  I originally wanted to focus on Voyager class due to size and recent improvements in quality but I've diversified and looked into getting anything that looks appealing without a pigeonholed need to "complete" any one or two lines.  Case in point, I picked up an Animated Soundwave and Laserbeak and probably will never buy another figure from the line with exception to Blurr or Longarm Shockwave.   I've made some pretty nice scores and have gotten quite a few guys at very decent prices so far.  I have however been noticing some self-kickingly high prices on fairly recent figures....some Prime series bots and cons are going for double their original retail cost which blows my mind considering they are 2 years old and literally warmed the pegs when I was only looking for Star Wars Vintage Collection figures.  I can't remember whose blog I read it on but there was some speculation that Hasbro's poor distribution of that toy line potentially killed the series way earlier than planned, pity because I'm looking over those figs and the Prime (and even some Beast Hunters) figures are some great slick sculpts that do a modern take on the Robots in Disguise with proper justice.

I gotta say, a simple look at the newer stuff has really been impressive and honestly, Transformers seems to be the only actual toy line that one can still collect in stores that has a nice variety of stocked and easily accessible figures that rotate waves fairly steadily.  I  have all but given up on Star Wars and have only bought 2 figures in the past 6 months their line. Hasbro still sucks balls as far as keeping the two and a half big-box toy retailers we have left stocked with figures where clear demand exists like Swerve, MP Grimlock, Tailgate and Cosmos for example.  But all in all, I'm still actively finding stuff to buy and to think Voyager Whirl was who I have to thank for getting back into the collecting pool...granted, I have to store ALL my stuff in my closet now due to space limitations.  Someday my amassed goods will have a nice shelf to call their very own.

Here, we are looking at a series I haven't touched yet.  I want to focus on the Armada Series', Tidal Wave.  He was released in Japan with much more appropriate purple and dark grey coloring and was known as Shockwave for the Micron Denetsu series (Our Shockwave was known as Laserwave over there).  He would later be recolored and re-released under the Energon line with a white, gold and translucent green motif as well.   He's a Mammoth of a figure comprising of three separate Decepticon Naval/Space vehicles that comprise the "Dark Fleet" which all combine together to form a massive attack craft (very much reminding me of Computron's Scattershot) which then transforms into the Giga-Con Tidal Wave.  Also included are two firing missiles and a mini-con version of Ramjet which is purple, grey and orange as opposed to the burgundy and white G1 Ramjet.  The Armada line's gimmick was to include a mini with every deluxe or voyager edition figure and the minicon unlocked various features by plugging into different points on the bot much like the Keys in the Cybertron series.

He's a totally solid figure standing tall and looking mean.  If you ever saw him on the cartoon when you heard "TIDAL WAAAAVE" you knew the Autobots were in some deep shit.   He's got a no-nonsense face with some beautiful paint detailing on his command consoles, the bridges, the (movable and poseable) gun turrets and the nicely articulated hands.  Although I far and away prefer the Takara (if you can even find it because the only stuff I've seen on aftermarket sights is the KO Sono Kong Korean models) paint apps, this guy does well with the colors and works.  There is also a feature that allows Armada Galvatron or Megatron to combine with him AND which isn't advertised is that his points of connections are also compatible with Cybertron Megatron and Galvatron, even Leo Prime as well for added weaponry.  None of it looks like it makes one lick of sense but its an option if you ever get curious with a couple of hundred dollars worth of figures. :)

The molding is great with nice details like the deck of the aircraft carrier, the grooves on the pontoon boats and the gold windows on the green command stations.  Again, his face takes it away and looks so much like a cartoon G1 combiner face and I absolutely love it.   He has nice articulation for such a big figure with movable guns, rotating chest place, bendable knees...his head does not move however...mer. There's also a feature where you plug Ramjet into the chest and it makes all the guns pivot and there are at least two hidden compartments on the ships to hide and store minicons as well as a fold out minicon command center where you can park multiples.  There's actually a minicon sea team from the MD series that matched his color and were originally directly designed for him however they were released state-side with a burgundy color and don't really got with him all that well for the U.S. version.  Speaking of minicons, lastly I'll touch on Ramjet.  He's a standard little  mini seeker mold with a unfolding fuselage, flip back conehead and clever flip out tail rudders that turn into his movable hands.  Decent three tone paint apps and a little blank faced mug on him.  Overall, nice little extra.

All in all, great huge figure that definitely fits in with the biggies and would look great next to Predaking or Vector Prime.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

List-O-Rama: Top 15 music videos that creeped me out.

Talking recently about video's and content and striking visuals, I decided to rekindle some old video memories and what better than to talk about the weirder ones.  These range in no particular order but go from stuff that left me slightly perturbed to freaked right the hell out.  Most of these were from my high school years but I've ranged it and will say a little about each of the 15 I have chosen.  Btw, This isn't the first time I've talked about music...or weirdness, check out my top video game music post, my mixtape post, or my strangest Liquid Television shorts if you have the time!  Enjoy campers. 

SoundGarden: Black Hole Sun - Apocalyptic setting, the band is the most normal thing here.  They actually edited this video to make it weirder and creepier.  I remember this airing without the digital alterations.  The frozen smiles are what sink in the hook and the only non-distorted face is the girl drooling ice cream.  Yum. I remember thinking good for the bugs when they swarm the little brats.

U.N.C.L.E.: Rabbit in your headlight - I've had nightmares like this...very unsettling.  I remember being so psyched when I saw this CD in a friends basement.  Props to him...not too many UNCLE or DJ Shadow CDs floating around Scranton in 1999.

Ramona Falls: I Say Fever - The paper cut out look always gets to me.   I think this is what Franz Ferdinand was going for and failed at in their "Take me Out" debut.

Tori Amos: Spark - My wife's favorite creepy video.  Very haunting and you sense the danger.  The camera angles, the bare feet, you can FEEL the cold and isolation here. The video leaves it open too at the end if she really does get away and is a rare case where you wish the video lasted a minute longer, or do you?

MGMT: Kids - I know the toddler was okay when they made this but I feel so bad for him on so many levels.  I wonder if this is what the world really seems like to children in settings with drug abuse or violence where everything is out to get them.  There's way more going on here than scary monsters...it's a true blood-and-guts critique of everything we've built around our selves...if we are damned, what of the children...btw, the quote in the beginning is Nietzsche, not Twain.

Interpol: Evil - My buddy at work turned me on to this great band.   They have more haunting music than this but honestly...the puppet really breaks into the uncanny valley and works with a human deconstruction that makes your skin crawl.  Almost like a real accident victim where so much of their personality and humanity is stripped away to the bare-bones of a vessel clinging to life at the end of a thread. 

Death in Vegas: Dirt - Saw this on 12 Angry Viewers on MTV in 10th grade.  Creeeped me out.  Lotta cliché shit in here but it worked for me then.  Still pretty hellish and I would not want to be wherever this is.

Stone Temple Pilots: Sour Girl - Soul Girl...and scaryyy little demon babies dancing around with a Ring inspiring background.  Nice. Props to my wife for the recommendation.

Genesis: Land of Confusion - God Almighty this is straight from Satan himself.   These puppets are the freakiest things...the mouth on Madonna's stomach??? What is going on.  That Reagan face is the stuff of nightmares.

Nine Inch Nails: Happiness in Slavery - The real link is below...this is the only closest thing I can find on Youtube....Pretty much a naked man being tortured to death into a pile of meat...shown at the end of the video.  I remember this on a special DVD collection and it got a lotta shit for it and rumors (pre-internet) of the guy really being murdered in the video. You gotta love those ridiculous stories...like the dead kid in the background of Three Men and a...yeah yeah yeah.


Peter Gabriel: Sledgehammer - I never thought Peter Gabriel would do a song about my penis... but really, Fruit with faces and creepy stopmotion does the trick for getting into the rank...the "Teeny little Superguy" animation on the gospel choir makes it all worth it.  Not scary but definitely weird.

Aphex Twin: Come to Daddy - Chris Cunningham has the devil on speed-dial and this is what the devil told him to put in his video...Oh my God....

The Faint: Agenda Suicide - Visually Striking, reminds me of the Mad Men intro.  Good flash animation and dark settings.  Not a shabby song either.

Woz not Woz: Hello Dad, I'm in Jail! - Saw this on Liquid Television and Geez Louize quite a chaotic mix of insanity and night terror. Fun to Sing though or blast out your windows...hey, they did blast it out their windows in "Pump Up the Volume"...poor Christian Slater, where are you now?

Metallica: One - Saw this on Beavis and Butthead of all places but the spliced in footage of  Johnny Got His Gun really made me a fan of Dalton Trumbo for life.  Such a terrifying premise.  It was so dark that I couldn't believe they'd show something like that on TV...I was 10 and naïve. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Russia / Ukraine and why it matters (to me at least)

Breaking with my normal monologues on toys, games and other equally light material, I felt it necessary to shift gears momentarily to something more serious.  Being married to a woman of mixed Ukrainian heritage and as a practicing member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, I have been paying special attention to the almost surreal developments in Europe's "breadbasket." We'll return to usual rants on the prequel trilogy and close-ups of Legos soon enough.

Why we should pay close attention to Russia, Crimea, and Ukraine.

Readers, This is based on what I know and what I have put together.  I am far from an authority or expert but this is more so a long buildup of thoughts committed to print mainly so I could make sense out of them.  Anyone who really wants to go beyond the headline, really does need to make a chart or list to figure out all that’s been happening.  Maybe if you have the stamina to get through this, you’ll see some things you previously have not heard or read and you are a little more informed.  This was the first political based writing I have done in a very long time so I’m a little more than rusty.  By all means, if you have corrections, let me know because I’m finding out new stuff on this sad subject hourly.  (update: I wrote this piece about 6 days ago and since then, Ukraine's troubles have been buried due to a wayward jetliner and the "blade-runner's" murder trial that has dominated the news ever since but this by no means accounts to any fact that Ukraine's situation has gotten better.  On the contrary, lack of press coverage has only emboldened Russia's illegal military and political actions against a sovereign nation.)  Good reading and God bless.

I have long advocated that Russia above all other entities including China, the so-called “Axis of Evil” and radicalized Islam was our biggest potential threat in the geopolitical world.  This was due to the  Soviet empire’s anticlimactic deflation, loss of satellite states and lack of political unity. This loss only left a gap and thirst which still breeds in Russia today to retake what they still see as their lost empire consisting of what would be the liberated Eastern European and Central Asian Republics of the Warsaw Pact.  A thing that perhaps makes them even more of threat than ever before is that they no longer have an arbitrary ethos of Stalinized Communism to hold them back thus eliminating them as an ideological threat.  On the surface, they are capitalists just like us except they prescribe to a brand of capitalism that even some of our biggest advocates for the uninterrupted free-market might hesitate to endorse.  How “free” is a free market in the hands of a blatant dictator? 
Certainly looks like you're maintaining a sense of peace and normalcy in Crimea

The United States in its all-too-regular sense of overconfidence and complacency was quick to assume the Russia was hobbled indefinitely following the fall of the iron curtain.  For us, it was easy to declare a war over, especially since we won it, “without firing a shot,” we say with a straight face to Central America and Southeast Asia.  But how easy is it for a nation to admit defeat who was yet to fight a battle?  To put in perspective, one can look to America where, nearly 150 years after the Civil War, we still have great-grandchildren lamenting the “lost cause” of state’s rights who still actively pursue the confederate agenda.  Would we be so obtuse to think Russia’s loss of empire and influence would go over smoothly, if at all?  We quickly dismissed any concern or worry of an ex-Soviet threat as deluded war cries from a misguided and obsolete political sector still sour over never getting one more “Good war” against the Red Menace they wanted to physically destroy since V.J. day.  Assuming every Russia suddenly embraced democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union is as unrealistic as assuming every racist in America joined the Rainbow Coalition after Obama’s election. 

However even basic economic assessments have stated the mass buildup of Russian wealth and the absolute boom of energy industry and production has left Mother Russia with insurmountable capital flow which is only growing.   They are a country completely autonomous for energy dependence and possess such an overabundance that they supply a quarter of Europe’s energy (1/3 which goes through Ukraine) and are the leading provider of natural gas.  The capital lost under communism was projected to take a century to regain within the Russian economy.  This was arrogantly miscalculated by, well, a century as Russia refilled its treasury and then some in a matter of twenty years after the economic shock therapy approach enacted by Boris Yeltsin who in 1991 literally shelled the same Russian parliament building he owed his career to when he “saved” it during the failed coup d'état against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.  We erroneously assumed they would try to rebuild their economy in a broken and defunct quasi-Soviet model.  Our “experts” never imagined Russia would use a no-holds-barred model created by free-market warrior, Milton Freidman whose very students were on jets to Russia to advise the new government on how to conquer an economy along the same lines of “Shock and Awe.”

Yeltsin was ruthlessly shrewd and scaled back all of his predecessor’s policies of Glasnost and Perestroika and make Russia into a closed-door sector of super rich oligarchy that made their ill-gotten fortunes buying out all of Russia’s national utilities and infrastructure for literally pennies on the thousand dollar.  The best part was they used Russian tax revenue to buy out the previously nationalized state companies so the Russian poor and middle class literally paid for the mass-privatization of their new command-capitalist state so they then could pay now skyrocketing energy costs with the ceilings and price controls lifted.   All while unions, state jobs and desperately needed relief programs were being eliminated to add insult to injury as divorce, drug-abuse, suicide and murder rates jumped to double digit rates.  This was all deemed “absolutely necessary” steps for the economy to recover which seemed contrary when it included selling off the only solvent sources of revenue in the country to private investors who would decrease service, terminate employment and raise prices.  Who, in fact, was this necessary for?  This was all done with Western support, particularly from economic interests in the U.S. because this, to us, looked like nails in the coffin for any semblance of a pro-union, Leninist, nationalized state and spelling a death knell for our greatest ideological foe. 

A "not-Russian" grenade launcher-equipped soldier protecting a free press in Crimea.

At all costs, we did not want a Russian equivalent to Poland’s “Solidarity” movement rearing its ugly head.  The bottom line appeared to be good and stable markets were all we needed.   Clinton was too busy outflanking the right and gutting American social programs to notice or care about what was going on in the former “evil empire”.   To the multinationals, Russia was a warning for their goals of mass corporatization in newly liberated countries.  The goal was to make absolutely sure any future economic “liberations” would take place where U.S. and European led multinationals would grab the chokers of any new open markets unlike Russia who defiantly transferred internally control of their vast assets from the state politburo to private billionaires greatly keeping outside hands away from the profits.  It was a simple exercise in semantics as KGB now called themselves CEO.  The goal would be to stick to the Poland, South Africa or Chilean model of “rebuilding” (by selling off national assets as irrecoverable collateral to interested parties as cheaply as possible in exchange for impossibly high interest loans) as opposed to Russia (who did the same thing except they transferred their assets from the hands of individuals from the state).  The Poland model has applied to every liberated country since who ever considered asking for a loan from the I.M.F. The loans would come through but under brutal conditions, heavy interest and major strings attached to keep these countries as indebted as the sharecroppers of the Jim Crow south.  

For any American who complains about “aid” we are perceived to give out, they need to realize this aid comes under impossible conditions that usually includes the recipient being placed in our deep pocket indefinitely.  If history serves as an indicator, the only thing Ukraine needs less than money from Russia is “aid” from America.  This explains why there was such contention in Ukraine over needing the economic deal, bailout or trade agreement they were asking for (Western Ukraine from the EU and the Eastern Ukraine from Russia) Call it what you will, they were in the economic boat they were in much more due to actions on our side of the fence as opposed to the Soviet side from a post-Cold War perspective.  Keep in mind, this Cold War destabilization had nobody but Russia to thank which left Ukraine pillaged, plundered and with 7 million dead from terror, torture, famine and intentional systematic starvation.  

Now the thing to watch with all of this amassed wealth was where it was going and the political leadership in charge.  Vladimir Putin was a man of the “old guard” who would have been front and center during the coup launched by the apparatchiks in 1989.  “Gorby” was certainly not Putin’s cup of tea and the liberation of East Germany was the first step to collapse of the Soviet Union which was what he considers the greatest tragedy in his lifetime.  Gorbachev has openly criticized Putin as turning Russia into an authoritarian shell, leading it down a ruinous pathway and for undermining his goal of transparency and restructuring. Putin’s people dismissively answered, “We restructured enough.”

In his early years Putin rose through the ranks of the ghoulish KGB until being handpicked by Yeltsin to run the country.  He runs it riding, and often crossing, the line between president and dictator and often works unilaterally on an air of machismo, brutality and strongman arrogance he wholeheartedly admits while still proclaiming a longing for the days of the Soviet Union.   Those who disagree are quickly and quietly dealt with, unless you are to be made an example out of like the band “Pussy Riot” or if you are audacious enough to be caught being gay in public.  The society is anything but free and that’s how he likes it.  He surpassed the limit of a two term president? No problem, he named  Medvedev his successor who altered the constitution which allowed him to run and preside for a third non-consecutive term using his vast fortune to secure an ironclad victory and commanding Medvedev to hand the presidency directly back to him while consolidating presidential power even further.

                Meanwhile, where is all of this amassed wealth flowing?  The answer is simple; a vast military buildup at a tune of 90 billion a year.  Multiply to the ladder of a decade and you are talking a 900 billion dollar military!  (To put in needed perspective, they are the third biggest spender behind us and China and we outspend them seven-fold…honestly, we spend 1.5 trillion every two years, yikes) The Russian Federation has rapidly been expanding its influence and power counting on the U.S. preoccupation with two unnecessary wars and our declaration to fight the very concept of terrorism, which Russia (along with Turkey, Egypt, Columbia and a host of other unabashed human rights violators) jumped right on board to receive our enthusiastic support and “aid” in pounding the rebel factions like that of Chechnya, the Muslim Brotherhood or FARC into dust. Not so amazingly, a decade later, Chechen terrorism still exists as two pre-Olympic bombs rocked Russia this year alone.  Parallel to that, our country still lives under constant threat of attacks ranging to those on military bases to the Boston Marathon from loner Youtube-inspired radicals operating completely outside any predictable terror network.   Homeland Security is a proven oxymoron as we slowly prod closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.

On a regional scale, Russia has solidified supply, energy and defense alliances with Finland their biggest Nordic compatriot to the North.  Meanwhile we are seeing live-fire exercises from the Baltic Fleet to show they mean business to any ex-Soviet republics like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as well as an evident flexing of their ICBM muscle.  They have been vying for equal influence and domination in energy markets in the Arabian Peninsula lending support to Iran and Syria and are eyeing the much destabilized region as American forces pull out their foothold.  In 2008, they marched into South Ossetia to “protect their interests and of ethnic Russian speakers” completely unopposed and had the country locked down in hours.  Well, G.W. Bush, at Dick Cheney's insistence, allegedly pushed for harsh sanctions however the paper tigers of Europe greatly balked at the idea while halfheatedly condemning the action while not a single American policy maker would commit to any show of force against Russia in Georgia.  Sound familiar?  This at least discounts the current GOP rhetoric how the Ukrainian invasion could have been prevented with McCain or Romney in office since the Georgian invasion occurred under one of our most bellicose and cavalier Republican presidents who most certainly did not hesitate to unilaterally use military force to get what he wanted…(against countries with minimal armies, weak governments and no infrastructures but still) 

This criticism of Obama comes from the same people in Congress who groused when we lent limited air support to the rebels who killed Moammar “Mad Dog” Gadhafi  (a known enemy of the US for decades linked to numerous attacks against American military personnel and civilians) but called Obama weak when the American people and congress directly refused his wishes to topple another Russian supported dictator Bashir Al-Assad, a man who not only gasses, poisons and uses illegal WMD’s  against women and children but also directly lends support to weapons production in Iran.  So which is it?  Should we have let Gadhafi live and kill Al-Assad or neither or both?  Obama is a bloodthirsty tyrant when he helps eliminate a key terrorist leader everyone since Reagan has been gunning for but he is a weakling when Congress refuses to allow him to stop a terror state more powerful than Iraq or Afghanistan because the American people are “tired of war.” … the logic sounds a little dicey to me.   A note of history repeating itself regarding our military being pulled out too soon due to the demands of a partisan congress and uneducated electorate occurred when U.S. Special Forces were pulled from Somalia because of the published photographs of U.S. casualties in Mogadishu when that very city became a hotbed for Al-Qaeda recruitment and training even possibly being the location that perfected the method of shooting down American attack helicopters which happened 16 times between 2006/07 in Iraq.  Our embarrassment over this tactical and public relations gaff was a major reason why we greatly held up international peacekeeping operations in Rwanda shortly after and the bloodiest war in the history of the world occurred and is still happening now.

Russian "Peacekeeping Efforts" in South Ossetia

Russian troops still occupy portions of Georgia to this day and it demonstrated that with exception to England and possibly Germany, at the speed and size of Russian mobilization and organization, they could lock down the European continent in a matter of days while the E.U. was still vacillating over not making hypothetical sanctions they would never pass too tough.  Apparently, Europe cannot have Russia raising the cost of Natural Gas any more than they do.  Gazprom already hyper-inflates the price to their customers at a rate of 40% across Europe while 15% domestically and they need to make back the revenue lost from the 2008/09 recession and competition from U.S. Shale.  Germany, the biggest potential voice to curb Russian action, itself is 1/3 dependent on Russian energy however there is currently talks among German lawmakers regarding transferring to American oil and gas exports but this is a long way from happening and would be a logistical nightmare.  As of now Russia’s gas and oil exports charge roughly 4 times the price they pay at home to all of Europe.  Any analysis of cost projections can tell that Russia’s foreign energy prices are only on their way up and that is without Ukraine on the table.

Uzbek soldiers rescuing a baby.

Kyrgyz mobs seizing a RPG from a soldier.

Prior to 2010 and beyond, Russia has been directly linked from multiple directions to the inciting of race riots in Kyrgyzstan against Muslim Uzbeks through key players in direct contact with the Kremlin during the riots as well as  allegedly paying unidentified gangs *possibly of Tajik origin* to shoot indiscriminately from moving vehicles at both Kyrgyz and Uzbek civilians sparking what Amnesty International dubbed, “gross crimes against humanity” through the burning alive and mass rape of potentially thousands (hundreds were the official number because only those with proper burials were counted so cases where multiple bodies in a single torched home were counted as one if at all…the numbers are very skewed because entire Mahallas “Uzbek neighborhoods” were torched) in while the Northern Kyrgyz paramilitary and military watched or directly participated through looting or murdering any local police who tried to uphold order.   Russia then refused to send in any aid or assistance to the southern Kyrgyz and Uzbek governments desperately calling for intervention to restore order, after all, destabilized regions are so much easier to take advantage of especially when two neighboring countries now have an enflamed hostile mistrust bred between them.    This isn’t anything new as nearly every neighbor be it Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Moldavia was all cited Russian antagonizing ethnic tensions and encouraging violence and turmoil at every turn including the Tartar minority in Crimea.

In another turn for the bizarre in 2010, the cloak and dagger plot was even more deep on the apparent involvement of the murder of Poland’s president, the chief of staff of the Polish military and 18 members of parliament among 76 others in 2010 when the plane carrying them to Russia for a memorial service ironically for the Poles massacred by Stalin during WWII suddenly crashed on the Russian side of the border.  Russian soldiers and investigators arrived to secure the scene…after stealing at least three credit cards from the bodies of the dead on board.  Russia tried to head up the investigation however Polish authorities eventually detected evident amounts of TNT and nitroglycerin in the wreckage on the plane to which the cause of crash was officially dubbed, “Malfunction on part of pilot error.”  I’ll add the pilots were ordered by Russian control towers to circle in dense fog until a point of no return and then ordered to make a landing attempt in conditions with zero visibility.  No matter what, the people on that plane were not living to see another day.  The discovery of the explosive powder was explained as trace materials from unexploded WWII bombs in the area….convenient how it jumped all over the wings, engines and 30 seats within cabin.   Russia still is withholding information from their side of the investigation that Poland is still pressing for.  A large number of Poles hardly believe that story.  Add the fact that the military prosecutor in the case shot himself in the head and Poles rioted at the Russian embassy in Warsaw in 2013 during an Independence Day celebration over the tragic and hazy end to their leadership.  You can’t make this stuff up!

Media pundits have since argued that Obama and much of our State department was taken by surprise by this and how unexpected this course of action is on Russia’s part.  Surprised? Yes.  Unexpected? No.  Secretary of State Kerry said, “[Putin] was using 19th century policies in a 21st century world” According to him we haven’t seen military takeovers or invasions since 1899? Since when?  Where do we get the disillusion to think dictators do not exist or territory is not to be coveted or people subjected against their will?  If he’s saying landgrabs only existed pre-1900, he need not look further than the very history of the U.S. as our armed forces were in a direct illegal occupation of the Philippines that very year!  This egalitarian la-la land is what emboldens dictators to take such audacious actions.  I’m sure in the world of Post-Versailles Europe no one would have ever imagined the rapid growth and conquest of Hitler and his Third Reich after the closure of an erroneously dubbed “war to end all wars” or the empires of Europe would have ever taken Napoleon and the rabble of post-revolutionary France seriously as a force to dominate all of Europe.   I should rephrase…the U.S.  Assumes land takeovers and subjection of populations do not take place unless we deem it necessary to our national interest.   That or the U.S.-supported dictator behaves in terms we deem acceptable such as Manuel Noriega or, more specifically, Saddam Hussein’s acceptable gassing of the Kurds (a people with little strategic, political or economic importance to our interests) prior to his unacceptable invasion of Kuwait (an oil-rich close ally of the Saudi’s who carry major weight in Washington).  The former action we overlooked (even taking him off our list of terrorist nations) while the latter landed Operation Desert Storm at his doorstep.

According to Russia, "Helluva guy!"

Our state department views this in a perplexingly contradictory manner. That being it is unfathomable when another world power does such a thing like physically invade another country for the purpose of annexation such as Russia or kills women and children in Syria or criminalize the entire homosexual population in Uganda.   Meanwhile we apathetically watched by while millions were slaughtered in the Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leonne, Tibet and Indonesia, continue to stand by while North Korea carries on with its explosive rhetoric and test launches tactical missiles on a monthly basis, and are somehow satisfied with a deal that still allows Iran to pursue nuclear energy pathways. (a deal the Iranian government steered as a political victory at home and a U.S. defeat abroad)  How is it we condemn some while permitting the same actions elsewhere?  Putin along with Hong Kong has directly supported and granted asylum to wanted fugitive Edward Snowden regardless of the perceived heroism or villainy of his actions in a concentrated effort to disgrace the American intelligence system and its political leadership among its people as well as made direct efforts to tap our diplomatic communications and leak them to further discredit our reputation.  Putin wrote a defiant Op-Ed piece for our New York Times outright challenging and criticizing our president’s desired actions to stop the crimes against humanity in Syria and accuses the West of interfering in his affairs???   All the while, he is being granted the title of “most powerful man on Earth” by Forbes Magazine while the IOC, in their normal history of rewarding brutal, awful countries, granted the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics in an imaginary Potemkin-village rightly fitting as a real-life vacation locale for Josef Stalin.  Maybe we can have the summer Olympics at the Berchtesgaden or Jonestown next.

Russia’s unilateral move into Ukraine should raise more than an eyebrow.  Considering there were multiple diplomatic pathways they could have pursued and leaded to “ensure safety” of ethnic Russians or “Protect Russian interests” as were the official excuses from the Kremlin.   As a permanent member of the UN Security council with veto power, Russia would have great flexibility to bend a diplomatic situation to their favor.  They could have worked with Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk to ease Ukrainian authority of the Crimean Peninsula to Russian governance undoing the 1954 deal while protecting the 1994 agreement of Ukrainian sovereignty.  With Russia’s wealth they could have justified the aid package they supplied prior to the EuroMaidan crackdown as a purchase of some effect to the Crimean region instead of just taking it off the table.  Russian control isn’t unheard of and Ukraine’s new government, in the spirit of open democracy, might be reluctantly open to a fair referendum.  Even if they weren’t, elections were coming up in 8 months and with limitless Russian money and stirred up anti-Kiev sentiment, this could have been easily put on the ballot as a referendum.  Crimea still wouldn’t normally be a shoe-in to join Russia as it already approved remaining within Ukraine’s borders in 1991.  The fact that Russia need an illegally appointed government in Crimea, closed door elections and a 30,000 strong military occupation clearly shows how unlikely a fair referendum would have went.  As a leading member of the OSCE, Russia could have gone in with monitors to ensure ethnic Russian rights were being protected and there was no destabilization or “anarchy” as they put it within the Ukrainian government.  Instead armed paramilitary are attacking and firing at monitors sent do exactly what Putin’s excuse was; to guarantee safety of citizens of Crimea.  When that isn’t happening mobs are threatening and beating members of the media for attempting to cover the clear hostile actions of such peaceful, downtrodden Ethnic Russians.  Strange how during all of EuroMaidan, no members of the media, Eastern or Western were attacked or stopped by the protestors.   

I know when I want to keep the peace, I allow a convicted terrorist to control the local government
and violent demonstrators to intimidate 40 percent of the territory.

So far, the only anarchy after the EuroMaidan protests have been violence directed at civilian governments of Eastern Ukraine under attack by “pro-Russian” Ukrainians.   “Pro-Russia” is loosely referenced since numerous reports out of Ukraine have alleged many “Pro-Russian” protesters in fact are Russians and members of their military who crossed into Ukraine to start trouble, incite violence and attack government buildings.    These “Pro-Russians” are not advocating for a Ukraine aligned with Russia…they are advocating for Ukraine to cease existing and to be agglomerated into Russia directly not just in Crimea but within all of Eastern Territorial Ukraine.  What we are witnessing is the literal theft of a country at the hands of terrorists and strong-armed goons of the Soviet era.   

The "Goblin King" of Crimea, Askimov.

All the while, Russia is flatly denying that any Russian troops are actually on the ground and that the thousands of armed men storming state buildings and seizing military bases are Ukrainian self-defense groups autonomous of Russian command.   This is a head scratcher that such large numbers of well armed and supplied men operating with absolute disregard for the rule of law and completely opposed to a Ukrainian lead Ukraine would have stood by since November and allowed the events of EuroMaidan to take place…all with weapons impossible to get within Ukraine’s borders…driving army vehicles with Russian tags on them.   Crimea’s actual government was dispossessed and overthrown and convicted terrorist Sergei Askimov is ruling as a dictator.  He is a leader member of a separatist group called “Other Russia” allied with similar “Russian Front” advocating for the overthrow of Ukraine and was jailed on charges of terrorism in 2001.  As a “popular Russian” candidate this man (along with his “Russian Front” Party) only received 4% of the regional vote in Crimea among an ethnic Russian majority when he and separatist allies ran for office legitimately last time but now the man also known as “Goblin” in criminal circles is calling the official political shots for this hotly contested region.  The Ukrainian Communist Party gets more of a vote than they do!  On Thursday, regarding Crimea’s “vote” to secede, a widely quoted “member of Crimean Parliament” named Sergei Shuvainikov was the sole voice of this in the worldwide news media.  He has long advocated violent separation and is a direct ally to Askimov yet these are men who are now the global voice of Crimea.  These Russian nationalist groups have long advocated violence and instability in the name of creating a reborn Soviet state.  Their homes resemble bunkers adorned with World War II imagery and anti-Ukrainian messages of hate and are constantly screaming how Ukraine is trampling their culture, language and rights as Russians while nearly everyone in the Ukrainian parliament openly speaks Russian and many key office holders are from the south and east and still are there after Maidan.   While they speak of their birthrights to posses Crimean, they are actively and hypocritically against the ethnic Tartars who are the true cultural hosts of the peninsula accusing them of lying about their origins and use anti-Muslim racism openly. 

Common sights in Crimea for the Separatists funded by Moscow

Yet in “Separatist” Kiev, the Moscow-dubbed, “Nazi, Nationalist and criminal force” running the country actually is a mix of dual Russian and Ukrainian-speaking, Tartar, Eastern, Western and Jewish individuals.  The acting president is a Baptist Pastor!  Hard to believe an anti-Russia, Nazi state being run by Baptists, Jews, Roma and people of mixed Russian and Armenian descent.  Ever since Maidan began in 2013, in Crimea there have been hundreds of mystery billboards, fliers and “grass roots” political mobilization against the Kiev protests financed by discreet donors and a lot of unannounced backdoor visits from Russian political figures to and from the area.  Russia has over 100 million dollars invested in over 60 political projects in the region even before the multibillion dollar bailout.  This alone gave Yanukovych all the motivation he needed to use deadly force.  Yet, according to the Kremlin, the minimally funded International Endowment for Democracy was somehow superseding decades of Russian influence, a clear strong-arm military and paramilitary presence and countless millions of dollars. This goes on and on and on.

Rewind to the previous election of Yanukovych which was majorly financed by Moscow.  He takes power and the previous Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko was unjustly jailed for a dozen trumped up charges ranging from corruption, to abuse of power to murder while the free man was well known to be one the most abusive and corrupt leaders in post Soviet Europe.   With his leading opponent out of the way, he pretty much was free to stay in power indefinitely and by no means was she what we would call “liberal.”  On the contrary, she followed an economic policy in step with the conservatives of this country.  He ran the country under Russia’s demands and was to instill Ukraine as part of the Eurasian Union, effectively a Kremlin controlled dictator’s club.  His crackdown of the EuroMaidan protests only demonstrated why he was unfit to rule as he operated with gross, criminal capacity.  He did this with full support of Moscow and this was evident by the fact immediately after his fleeing the country he is seen in Moscow and issues a broadcast from southern Russia dismissing and now calling illegitimate the very government (the same that existed while he was president) who legally impeached him for fleeing his position.  While Ukrainians demanded the rule of law and a true transition to a democratic country, Russia’s invasion was for so much beyond a land grab.  Ukraine represented absolute defiance to the will of their superpower neighbor and the threat of a free society opening political, economic and social avenues to all.  Any victory for something like this is an absolute threat to a regime which brutalizes and represses at will like those who control Russia.  This could be directly mirrored to the case of Cuba and America’s fanatical desire to destroy such a visible case of defiance to our political will to dominate the Western Hemisphere.  This is why the nations of Europe unanimously invaded France following their revolution and the likes of Voltaire was expelled and the works of Mozart were banned in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for potentially inspiring similar egalitarian thinking.  In Russia at all costs, any revolt in Ukraine must be portrayed from start to finish as evil, illegal and doomed to fail lest any of the mass portion of repressed, impoverished Russians get the same idea.   A sad lesson was Ukraine until 1994 was the world’s third biggest nuclear power and as part of the 1994 agreement between the US UK and Russia completely disarmed and ceased proliferation.  This sets a terrible reverse incentive from any nuclear nation considering disarmament and a major justification for any country pursing a nuclear program to work faster in achieving their goals because apparently lack of nuclear armaments will only lead to a foreign invasion.  Ukraine literally filled its silos with dirt and planted daisies on top and have a Russian occupation to thank.

Lithuanian anti-Russian Protestors

Should Putin’s excuse as a humanitarian crisis hold up, what would this mean of any other country host to an ethnic Russian population?  We saw Germany use these reasons for the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, Anschluss in Austria and their incursion into Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhineland under the guise of protecting ethnic Germans German interests.  With this potential precedent being set, what of Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Kazakhstan or Moldavia which are countries Putin doesn’t consider “real” but more so wards to the Pax-Russiana he covets.   All host ethic Russians and have populations where 75 percent or more speak Russian.   What is being reported is an armed takeover with upwards of 30,000 Russian troops and armor completely locking down the Crimean peninsula and amassed on the border of East Ukraine while the Ukrainian army is on high alert and awaiting orders.  What our popular media has yet to report are the witnesses from the ground surfacing information of why the Russians were so hard up to confiscate Ukrainian ordinance and weaponry and continuously are pressing the issue on Russian newsmedia outlets.   Within Ukraine, there are reports of Russian Special Forces planning to instigate a false flag operation attacking ethnic Russians with Ukrainian military equipment giving justified reasoning to invasion and use of lethal force.   The “ethnic Russian” population has been incessantly inciting violence against the interim Eastern government this whole time while police and pro-democracy forces have demonstrated nothing short of superhuman restraint.  All of this is very reminiscent of the Gleiwitz incident Hitler used to rationalize the invasion of Poland if not a carbon copy, it seems the tsar is taking many lessons from the fuehrer in conquest.   Russian state television has long been demonizing the Euromaidan protests for nearly half a year and have been portraying images of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian military into Poland as Russians fleeing the Ukrainian demonstrators into Russia.  At the tune of 20,000 state workers, many under threat of termination from their jobs, marching “freely” in Moscow to support invasion, the few courageous enough to demonstrate for peace at the Kremlin were quickly rounded up, detained and whisked off to who knows where.  There are also reports of Moscow bussing in thousands of Russians from Russia to pretend to be ethnic Russian Ukrainians to incite violence and cast their phony ballots in the referendum to liberate Crimea…a referendum Crimea already had…in 1991…and they chose to stay in Ukraine.  Even among the allegedly “oppressed” Russian Crimeans who talk to the press (the press they don’t attack) refuse to give proper identifications of surnames.  Maybe because that would be a dead giveaway that they, in fact, aren’t citizens of Ukraine???
It's really easy to save people who are in no danger whatsoever.

With lack of any action from the international community besides pulling ambassadors from Moscow and threatening sanctions and visa revocations, all of which Putin has preemptively weighed, this has only emboldened Russia further.  They have not been given a single real reason to stop their actions.  Once can only wonder what his aim is?  A military takeover of that magnitude seems like a buildup to something much bigger and a literal testing of the water to see what the NATO response would be which as of now has been nothing.   If Russia possibly could have legally annexed or at least landed major political control over Crimea without a single soldier under justifiable reasons for monitoring a transitional shaky government with potential hostilities to them, why do all of this without intent to use it?  This like the dropping of the two nuclear bombs on a crippled Japan is not really for the apparent stated reason of “humanitarian reasons” or “preventing an invasion of Tokyo” but for the underlying reasons to send a more than direct message to much bigger players in the world of possession of might and absolute willingness to use it.  We speak of Russia being isolated but what of China, the second largest economy in the world who has derided our condemnation of the invasion and has lent support to Russia’s actions?   Russia and China, even as a combined economic force is far too powerful to ignore and from a tactical or security standpoint neither is the very unstable baggage they bring with them in Iran, North Korea and Syria.
A bunch of "not-Russian soldiers" acting like Russian soldiers.

My magic eight ball prognosticates some bad times in our near future.   America and Obama, whether we or he want to or not, are being looked to again as leaders of the “free world” to take the lead against the body of Soviet Imperialism which had been not dead but, in fact, dormant all these years.   However we have an extenuating set of impossible limitations and circumstances to fight a military strongman who acknowledges only the force of your bludgeon and the size of your weapon with nothing more than empty threats and unorganized squabbling on how quietly we should yell.  Hitler later admitted, he would have stopped right in his tracks had anyone even demonstrated a remote show of force…If you do not think Putin will be saying the same thing a years from now on his seat on the empire of the Russian Eurasian Federation, you may want to think again.