Paul Goble writes: Vladimir Putin views Barack Obama as being in “panicked retreat” because of the latter’s decision to extricate the US from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and believes that it would be foolish not to exploit the possibilities that such a drawdown in American power present, according to Konstantin von Eggert.
But in doing so, the Moscow analyst says, Putin has opened the door to even more problems for himself as the conflict continues not only internationally but at home where most Russians and especially Russia’s predominantly Sunni Muslim community oppose his support of Assad.
In the short term, von Eggert argues, Putin has achieved five goals by his Syrian actions:
First, he has forced Obama to meet with him because, as a result of Syria, Obama “simply could not refuse dialogue with Putin” given the stakes.
Second, Putin has succeeded in reducing the importance of Ukraine for Washington and thus making it less the defining issue of the West’s relations with Moscow.
Third, Putin has “sent an unambiguous signal to the not-very-numerous allies of the Russian regime: ‘if things are going badly for you, we won’t throw you over,’” a message by which the Kremlin leader wants to contrast himself with the behavior of the United States.
Fourth, “participation in the Syrian civil war is giving [Russia] a chance to demonstrate what the latest Russian arms are capable of,” something useful not only to influence others but to attract new orders for Russia’s arms exporters.
And fifth, “Putin has made it clear to the entire world and above all to the United States that the principle of the sovereign right of any regime to do what it finds appropriate on its own territory is for him inviolable.”
Putin’s moves in this regard reflect a fundamental difference between the West and Russia. Western leaders get involved in foreign affairs “by necessity.” Putin in contrast sees foreign actions as “one of the main (if not the chief) component parts of his legitimacy in the eyes of his compatriots.”
Moreover, von Eggert continues, “Obama and his entourage have the dislike of using military force characteristic of Western leftists while Putin considers [the use of such force] as the key element of world politics.” For him, respect is everything because people “‘respect the strong but beat the weak,’” as he has said many times. [Continue reading…]