I finally got around to reading Vladimir Putin’s opinion piece in the New York Times. It caused quite a commotion in the United States and around the world, with many resonating with Putin’s words. Within the United States it’s obvious the Russian president struck a nerve. Putin spoke truth and both the American people and our leaders would be smart to listen to his message, no matter how dubious the messenger.
Putin brought up an excellent point about the League of Nations, and how it fell apart because it had no real power. The same can happen to the United Nations if we are not careful. What Putin doesn’t acknowledge is that the UN was created to prevent interstate conflict. However since 1945, the majority of the world’s conflicts are intrastate. The difference between the two types is what drives a lot of the discord in the United Nations today.
President Putin is right on many points, including the history of American military action in intrastate conflicts. The Russian president is correct that an American strike on Syria would further destabilize the Middle East and negatively impact international law. Because the bottom line is that without UN Security Council approval, any use of force in Syria would be against international law. However Putin’s motive must be examined thoroughly also. This is the perfect opportunity for him to step back onto the world stage and he has milked for all it’s worth. Putin’s relationship with Assad brings over $5 billion to Russia so it makes sense he does not want Assad to go, despite his insistence that he is not trying to protect Assad and that international law must be upheld.
But Putin is also correct that the battle for Syria is not a battle for democracy. Some people want democracy in Syria but many in the opposition are linked with al-Qaida and other groups seeking to harm the US as well as other western countries. The US looks arrogant for insisting we can pinpoint the ‘moderate’ factions and help them overpower those who would do the US and the West harm.
None of this is to say Putin is an angel and the US is the devil. I thought the last paragraph of his piece was paradoxical because it was hypocritical and correct at the same time. However controversial, I agree with him that American exceptionalism, exceptionalism from any nationality is dangerous. History has proven that. From the British empire controlling 25% of the world’s population at its peak, to Nazi Germany seizing German-speaking lands prior to the start of World War II and Japan seeking to control all of Asia. However Putin looks hypocritical talking about God creating everyone equal after he passed laws clearly saying he does not think gays and lesbians were created equal.