Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

Digging a little deeper into Putin’s journalistic debut:

It’s a fascinating document — a very Russian perspective translated into American vernacular, an act of public diplomacy aimed at the American public and the latest chess move in the U.S.-Russia standoff over Syria, one in which we the readers are implicated. Putin does make a number of valid and even compelling points, but there is an undeniable hypocrisy and even some moments of dishonesty between the lines.

via Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed, annotated and fact-checked.

Olga Khazan writes in the Atlantic about what she sees as a hidden sub-text:

Like most op-eds, Putin’s is biased and leaves out some key, inconvenient information. He makes no mention of the fact that Russia is openly arming Assad and his army, thus helping perpetuate a conflict he claims to want to find a “compromise” on.

Putin argues a U.S. strike on Syria would upend “law and order,” but doesn’t acknowledge that the Syrian city of Tartus is home to a crucial military base for Russia, or that the Assad regime buys Russian weapons.

The piece also reads like a takedown of the idea of American exceptionalism—the longstanding theory, which Obama has used to sell Syrian intervention, that the United States can act unilaterally to circumvent normal international channels. (It’s how we got into Iraq and out of some major global conventions.) …

Despite the “Listen to Wise Uncle Vladimir” tone Putin takes in the piece, he’s not the cautious, international-law-loving, non-interventionist he makes himself out to be. But he’s not irrational, either.

via The Hidden Fear in Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

And also from James Fallows, who quotes a California blogger–born in Ukraine who provides this clear-eyed assessment of Putin from a global perspective:

He is making his case, a case that the world will not understand as Americans understand it. He has protected his interest in Syria under the banner of advancing an international interest. He has established, further, a precedent. That the United States does answer to the council, that it cannot act unilaterally and that our nation can be made to suffer a geopolitical consequence. If you were a country in the Middle East, whose protection would you want right now?

I brought up Khrushchev not incidentally. I currently view our recent impasse as very similar to the Vienna Summit. Americans are quick to hand-wave the foreign apparat, but slow to realize what just happened. We got duped into having a fight we didn’t want to have. We wanted limits on Assad’s power, and we now have significant limits of our own by way of this precedent.

I believe it is quite possible that we were playing a long game, but in this instance, I believe our opposition was playing a longer one. That this, while a temporary strategic success, will come out to be a failure of realpolitik. We should have been as prepared for Putin as it appears he was for us.

via What Putin Understands That Most American’s Don’t


9 thoughts on “Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed”

  1. On the surface, Putin’s open letter is loaded with appeal to the American people. While it does make interesting and even very compelling points, one also has to wonder the motives behind such a letter. After all, this isn’t the first time that Putin has written an op-ed for the Times.

    Ideally, the principles of the United Nations would be upheld by everyone. Unfortunately, as the article states, both the US and Russia have acted against the Security Council in the past. I hope this article can be read for what it means to be, an appeal for diplomacy over violence, rather than what it may actually be, PR for Putin.

    1. I feel like Putin (and Russia) have definitely out-maneuvered Obama on Syria. I feel like having the head of state write an op-ed is a creative way to reach through the diplomatic back door and send a message to the citizens behind those in the executive branch. (I would love to attend a Russian Foreign relations brainstorming session to see what other ways of diplomatic outreach they have thought of). It would be interesting to see if and how other countries react to the comments made by “Putin.” Statements like “A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa” seem like they would become more likely after having Putin pre-legitimize the violence that has not happened and giving them an easy path to blame the US action in Syria for the violence that they cause in other countries. Perhaps raising the stakes of a US strike was a part of his strategy.

      I also was curious as to why Russia has been so supportive of Assad, and found this analysis from Washington Institute that lays out some key points, for anyone interested- http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/russias-many-interests-in-syria

  2. I found Putin’s article to be an interesting read. Of course there was bias. It’s an op-ed article. It was also interesting to read simply as a case well made, with a plethora of appeals to logic, to history, to religion, and others. It is remarkable as well that what started as a concern about violation of international law by a government in a relatively small country has become a global dance of national powers intent on preserving pride and reputation. This latest move by Russia seems to be another unique way in which Russia has sought to gain favor not just with the citizens of the rest of the world, but Americans as well, in light of recent events weakening Obama’s position.

    1. I agree with you. We need to realize that this is not your typical journalism, it is someone’s OPINION. I find it remarkable that although he undermines America’s authority, we are still considering his plan of attack. He definitely has overshadowed America in the world’s view, which is something I find intriguing. Going along with the other article about the lack of power in speeches, I believe this op-ed produced tons of power. Everyone’s read it and had an opinion on it!

  3. Vladimir Putin makes me sick. I’m going to be honest, I have never liked him ever since he found a loophole in Russia’s constitution to make himself president again. I think the authors for these articles are too nice to Putin and I would like to see someone stand up to him. I would like to see what McCain would say in his article to the Russians if he wrote in the Pravda like he has been saying he might do. The truth is that Vladimir is a liar and a hypocrite and is doing exactly what the Washington Post writer Max Fisher says he is doing and that is using International Law to protect his own interests. How egocentric of Putin to write an Op-Ed in the New York Times, it makes me want to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do.

    1. I agree that Putin may not be a particularly good person. But I found his article fascinating, and I think some of his points were valid. Certainly, Putin is seeking to further Russian interests, and bends or breaks the truth to further that cause. But I believe the U.S. government acts similarly.

      Here is a similar analysis, of all of the lies and hypocrisies in President Obama’s speech justifying the war: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/09/notes-on-obamas-exceptionally-weird-speech-on-syria.html.

      Popular opinion polls in the U.S. may not be enough to stop Russia from arming Assad or the U.S. from arming the rebels (both directly and through proxies). But massive, bipartisan opposition did stop President Obama from bombing Syria. I don’t care what Putin wants the U.S. to do; I want the U.S. to do the right thing instead of playing some complicated game of realpolitik.

  4. It’s shocking to me that the New York Times would publish this Op-Ed by Vladimir Putin, and it’s even more shocking to me that people would take the advice of a man who is a political leader of a country that is not necessarily our ally. It interesting to me that, in this article, he would compare the United Nations to the League of Nations saying that it could possibly collapse because it has no leverage. While, at a glance, this is possible, the League of Nations didn’t ever have a fraction of influence or leverage that the United Nations has. Based off that sentence alone it’s difficult for me to respect what he has to say. It’s also interesting that he is pleading with Americans, when, in reality, Americans don’t have much say in what happens in the United Nations. This is clearly a political move on Putin’s part, as Russia has interest in the Syrian conflict. Maybe he has a few good points in this editorial, but it would be naive on American’s part to not look deeper into Russia’s motives.

  5. Vladimir Putin certainly has some ulterior motives in his proposal on chemical weapons in Syria. But our concern should not be whether or not we are “playing into his hands”. The main question we should ask ourselves is, “What is the best option for the United States and the world at large?” To me, the benefits of a strike against Syria do not outweigh the costs. America already has a bad reputation for meddling in foreign affairs. To do so without support from either the UN Security Council or Congress would be an unwise move. However, America’s credibility is on the line. Obama drew the “red line” and Assad crossed it. Something has to be done or else countries like Iran will get the idea that they can walk all over us. Putin’s proposal provides an opportunity for Obama to save face without getting involved in another war.

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