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.
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.
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.