What did we learn about the Russian leader called “the man without a face” by Masha Gessen this week in Charlie Rose’s interview? (Republican candidate Marco Rubio has already drawn his conclusions.)
First, from a stylistic approach–what’s with al the fawning? Aren’t journalists–especially experienced, successful, and respected ones like Rose—supposed to be able to stand up to power and to elicit truth? The interview seemed to be a dinner party chat rather than a journalistic exchange.
Next, we hear the Russian point of view on concerns about terrorists currently fighting in Syria that potentially return home to foster mischief (or worse). After two interactions at the UN between Putin and Obama we see little agreement.
On a strategic level, how can the U.S. hope to defeat ISIL and to remove Assad from power? Vali Nasr explains why Vladimir Putin is the solution to the Syrian Civil War.
The United States has from the outset been reluctant to get involved in the Syrian debacle. Its support for opposition to Assad has been ineffective and so have its attempts at finding a diplomatic solution. By contrast, or perhaps as a consequence, there is now recognition across the board that Russia is central to an end game in Syria.
Source: Putin: Syria’s Only Hope – POLITICO Magazine
For a contrarian view, Fred Kaplan sees weakness–not grandmaster chess moves–occurring in Russia’s repositioning forces in Syria.
In the past decade, Russia has lost erstwhile footholds in Libya and Iraq, failed in its attempt to regain Egypt as an ally after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and would have lost Syria as well except for its supply of arms and advisers to Assad—whom it still may lose, despite its desperate measures.
The portrayal of Vladimir Putin as a grand chess master, shrewdly rebuilding the Russian empire through strength and wiles, is laughable. Syria is just one of two countries outside the former Soviet Union where Russia has a military base (the other being Vietnam, and its naval facility there, at Cam Ranh Bay, has shrunk considerably). His annexation of Crimea has proved a financial drain. His incursion into eastern Ukraine (where many ethnic Russians would welcome re-absorption into the Motherland) has stalled after a thin slice was taken at the cost of 3,000 soldiers. His plan for a Eurasian Economic Union, to counter the influence of the west’s European Union, has failed to materialize. His energy deal with China, designed to counter the west’s sanctions against Russian companies, has collapsed.
Source: Slate – Desperate in Damascus
Regardless what is really happening, Syria gives Putin a distraction from the situation in Ukraine.