Relations between Russia and the United States deteriorated soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rather than treat the replacement government in Russia with respect, America exerted its power, ridiculed Russia, and wholly disregarded the national pride and traditional alliances of that nation.
A drunk President Yeltsin became a laughing stock while entrenched Communist Party members dismembered state institutions. They became economic oligarchs accumulating billions of dollars in the privatization of former national industries. This hurt Russian pride and undercut support for democracy.
NATO military operations in former Yugoslavia did much to further ruin relations. No matter how justified most feel about those actions, Russia was forced to stand idly by while a historic ally endured punishment from a former enemy without a United Nation’s vote. Many Russians resented this immensely including a former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin. (He mentions this to this day.)
As the Russian empire further disintegrated with so many republics seeking independence, angst grew. National pride suffered. Anger welled up. An attraction for nationalism arose.
‘Much of the growing xenophobia accounts for the rise of Vladimir Putin’s career. He mobilized a political party based upon a revitalization of Mother Russia. He has persisted in imposing stern discipline even to the point of crushing his opposition, seizing media outlets, arresting protesters, imposing anti-gay legislation, and embarking on an aggressive nationalist agenda.
Putin became the “junk-yard dog” of Europe. Yet, somehow on the issue of Syria he has played his chess game well and come off as deliberative, collected, focused on legal niceties, and a champion of peace.
What is worse for America, he is winning this propaganda game.
In contrast, the United States appears too anxious to resort to military means. We seek to punish Syria’s Assad without even giving the United Nations inspectors an opportunity to present their case. Worse, the threat, as advertized, will be extremely limited which makes one wonder about its purpose. At the same time any military attack could prove potentially explosive in ways that cannot be anticipated. One might say American threats appear weak and reckless. The fact that the American President also holds the Nobel Peace Prize proves especially perplexing to those who objectively watch this strange tale unfold.
Despite strident efforts to forge a coalition, Secretary of State John Kerry can find little international support. Lest we forget, Syria was once a colony of France, so French help may be more negative than positive. America basically stands alone.
Suddenly, Putin responds to an unguarded, off-hand remark by Secretary Kerry to alter the course of events. By offering to surrender Assad’s chemical weapons to international authorities Putin placed the United States in the unenviable position of having to publically back-down, delay actions, and reposition itself hours before the President addressed Congress and the nation. Check, and possibly mate. Well played, Mr. Putin, credit is due where it belongs.
How did we get to this point? What surreal reversal of reality has allowed Putin to become the image of peace and Obama an aggressive militarist?
by Ron Chapman, award winning columnist, educator and businessman from Chalmette, La.