THUMB-BUDDY LOVES YOU: State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicates her support for Ukraine in a Twitter post Thursday (right) — less than a week after Russian forces stormed an air base in Crimea that refused to surrender after the territory's annexation by Russia (left).Photo: Getty (left) and Twitter (right)
Russian leader Vladmir Putin sent in troops and tanks to invade neighboring Ukraine and the Obama administration is coming to the rescue with . . . selfies!
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was mocked Thursday after posting a photo of herself on Twitter holding a sign that read #UnitedForUkraine @StateDeptSpox.”
Psaki, who has worked closely with President Obama since his 2008 campaign and is the chief communications adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, is smiling and giving a thumbs-up in the photo.
But the cheerleading for beleaguered Ukraine wasn’t trending or scaring off bully Putin, said critics in the blogosphere.
“Presenting The Latest US Strategy to Counter ‘Russian Aggression,’ ” a snarky blogger posted on zerohedge.com. “#Selfies!”
Critics said the photo from America’s chief diplomatic perch was embarrassing.
“No wonder Putin covers his mouth when speaking to Obama, perhaps to hide his laugh?” wrote another blogger.
“How flippin’ sad has the USA become?” wondered a third critic.
Psaki defended her photo.
“The people of Ukraine are fighting to have their voices heard and the benefit of communicating over social media is it sends a direct message to the people that we are with them, we support their fight, their voice and their future,” she said.
World leaders and Congress tried to provide Ukraine with more than selfie support Thursday to help contain the Russian Bear.
The International Monetary Fund pledged up to $18 billion in loans to Ukraine and the UN voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Russian-sponsored vote in Crimea that drove it toward the Kremlin.
For its part, Congress approved harsher sanctions against Russia.
Yet even with such intensive help to prop up Ukraine’s teetering economy, its prime minister warned of painful times ahead to implement economic reforms.
Energy prices were certain to jump quickly since much of the country’s energy supply comes from Russia.
In a passionate address to parliament in Kiev, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that Ukraine was “on the brink of economic and financial bankruptcy” and laid out the fixes needed to put the country back on track.
“The time has come to tell the truth, to do difficult and unpopular things,” Yatsenyuk said, adding that Ukraine was short $25.8 billion — “equivalent to the entire state budget for this year.”
For his part, Obama called the swell of international support a “concrete signal of how the world is united with Ukraine.”
Russia shrugged off the torrent of criticism.
To counter sanctions, Putin’s government announced it would set up its own payment system to rival Visa and MasterCard after the two companies pulled out of some Russian banks.
A Princeton PhD, was a U.S. diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Central/Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. After leaving the State Department in order to express opposition to the planned invasion of Iraq, he taught courses at Georgetown University pertaining to the tension between propaganda and public diplomacy. For many years he shared ideas on the theme "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" with Eurasian/European delegates participating in the "Open World" program.
Brown’s articles have appeared in numerous publications. A recent piece is “Janus-Faced Public Diplomacy: Creel and Lippmann During the Great War” (published in Nontraditional U.S. Public Diplomacy: Past, Present, and Future; now online).
He is the author (with S. Grant) of The Russian Empire and the USSR: A Guide to Manuscripts and Archival Materials in the United States (also online). In the past century, he served as an editor/translator of a joint U.S.-Soviet publication, The Establishment of Russian-American Relations, 1765-1815.