Does Putin have a point?

What, everyone is asking, what is Vladimir doing?

President Obama says he is stepping into a quagmire, the sort of thing that the United States knows much about. And then there are the Russian experts who pretty much agree that no less than Putin’s aggression in Ukraine his entry into Syria is a big mistake, and will bring him only more headaches.

Masha Gessen, in a Times op-ed piece gives us “Vladimir Putin’s Guide to World History.” According to Gessen Putin is simply rewriting the history of the West in agreement with what he wants that history to be, much like his first boss, Joseph Stalin.

First of all, and most of all, he would impose on the world his view that the United States, not Russia, not even the defunct USSR, is clearly, in the forest of the world, the big bad wolf. And if you say this enough people will begin to believe you. And that’s happening, certainly in Russia where the media are completely controlled by Putin, but also in the world where, according to the results of recent survey by Buzz Feed we, not Russia, are the biggest threat to world peace.

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From Gessen’s Putin’s Guide to World History I take the following points that Putin would make in his revisionist history. And as you read don’t forget that Putin called “the breakup of the USSR the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th.century.”

  • Americans are  “those who created the present  situation” in Syria,  when they sided with the protesters who took to the streets in 2011, that which led inevitably to chaos. And no less were the Americans at fault by provoking the armed coup in Ukraine that led to the present civil war.
  •  And the Americans, or “those who wound up at the top,” through no particular merit, go about ignoring the U.N. whenever it gets in their way, thereby threatening and eventually undoing the U.N. protected world order.
  • And the “so-called democratic” revolutions  led by the Americans, and so much admired in the West, have when planted in the countries, of the Middle East in particular, been the principal cause of the chaos and violence that we now see there.
  • Mr. Putin names what’s going on now the real “clash of civilizations,” a clash  of “traditional values,” those that Putin would protect in both Ukraine and Syria, vs. an immoral Western world led by the United States. And it’s true that there are new conservative political parties springing up in all of Europe protecting traditional religion and family structures from the unbridled and seemingly irresponsible freedoms of the West.
  • Putin makes the case that the United States is the expansionist power, not Russia, which is, after all, simply defending its own traditional values in Ukraine and in Syria where it is defending the legitimate government of President Assad.
  • The way to deal with Syria and the refugee crisis, Putiin said, is to support the legitimate government of Syria. “By our being in our bases in Latakia and Tartus we are defending Syria, but also Russia. And we are defending the principle that any government, the government of Syria for example, can do what it wants with its own people.”
  • Mr. Putin also believes that America backed those who protested in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia in the winter of 2011, and that only his own firm hand has averted a similar fate similar to that of Syria in his country.
  • The United States’ greatest fault, and mistake, was to threaten the security of Russia by bringing NATO and NATO arms and men right up to Russia’s western borders.
  • Mr. Putin proposed creating an international anti-terrorist coalition that could, “like the anti-Hitler coalition, bring together a broad range” of forces — including the Syrian government — to fight the Islamic State.
  • Finally and most of all, as Masha Gessen points out, Mr. Putin is determined to have Russia again acknowledged as a superpower, at least equal to America while being the decisive power in both Ukraine and Syria. Putin door

 

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