Is Vladimir Putin guilty of many bad things? Yes. Among them the hypocrisy of his New York Times' call for geopolitical 'equality' while he sits indifferent to the lynching of Russian LGBT. Also unappreciated goes his failure to safe-guard African immigrants who have been targeted by neo-Nazis.
But the Russian leader is a fairly rational-seeming human being who is playing a much more broadly expansive and dangerous game than the Rocky and Bullwinkle plot assigned to him by the media. His interest in Syria is not to poke a thumb in the eye of Obama or the U.S., but rather things much more complex And to that extent I find what he thinks interesting and useful.
He is convinced, and wants to convince Americans, that nothing good will come of it, pointing to the incontrovertible reality that the U.S. would de facto be making a common front in Syria with its designated terrorist enemies, the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. As a pragmatist, however, Putin recognizes that something more substantial is needed to stave off the U.S. attack -- hence his chemical weapons initiative, which has led to a reprieve.We tried this already in Afghanistan, and Nicaragua and Chile. (Most of our terrorist-fascist funding was done by Republicans, by the way, although Democratic administrations have been stained with copious blood all the same.)
How'd it work out the last 80 times?
We've been hearing since shortly after Bush 'stared into Putin's soul' that Russia is a totalitarian regime hellbent on reviving the Cold War. We've heard it from John McCain, Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol. And everyone claiming this is a known pathological liar or senile crack-pot. This, on the other hand? Makes a lot more sense:
Putin’s primary goal isn’t a deal with the U.S. on Syria, but on the international security system as a whole. His central thesis is that a stable world order should be based on the institutions of the United Nations, and in particular consensus among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. In this vision, nothing serious could be done in the field of international security, especially the use of force, without Russia’s approval or acquiescence. For Putin, this amounts to an essential equality among the major powers, which he sees as a foundation of global stability.Putin was trying to convince us that Syria does not benefit our rational self-interest. Unfortunately, I can think of no country less rational on the foreign affairs front right now. But Putin is rationally self-interested. Syria's a lot closer to his backyard than our's. And, by the way:
Those are very much in Putin's backyard.The chaos and uncertain futures of post-U.S. intervention Iraq and Afghanistan are Putin’s exhibits A and B in making this case.
There are other critical points. In 2014, a full blown regional war could very easily end up with one ortwo accidents leading to low-scale warfare between Russia and the U.S., or the U.S. and China. That is not in Russia's interest (or China's) because Russia doesn't have the ability to 'win', which is to say, gain anything.
In fact, Russia's navy cannot compete with the U.S.. Again, this is a well-known regurgitated fact, not 11th-dimensional rocket surgery.
Putin is rightfully worried about the security of the world's nuclear arsenals. Syria does not advance that.
So please, condemn Putin for his dispassionately amoral human sacrifice of LGBT, for his curtailing of journalistic liberty and duty, for his siding with Bashir Assad. But he's still a human being, and in learning from our 'enemies' instead of turning our backs on them we may end up saving ourselves from ourselves.