I remember quietly fretting on as the rest of the delegation had moved into boarding. I could see Nunn and Lugar arriving. The Naval and Embassy officials were all on their phones. Finally the passport turned up. I quickly got on the flight. Once in the air, I turned to Lugar aide Kenny Myers Jr. and asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
“They probably just wanted to take one more look at you,” he said. That night in the Londonskaya Hotel bar in Odessa, the place was teeming with shadowy figures (the Nunn/Lugar delegation had arrived in town with a police escort). Perhaps the paranoia was settling in. The guy at the other end of the L-shaped bar smoked a cigarette and was watching every time I glanced up.
The Black Sea is a mysterious and suspicious neighborhood. The day before we arrived in Odessa, the Cossacks were demonstrating about a Catherine the Great statue in town. Seven years later, they were whipping Pussy Riot in Sochi.
This is Putin’s Russia, and now it’s potentially Putin’s Ukraine.
Brian Howey publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.