Friday, October 23, 2015

frustrating insertion of the blood funnel, valodya guided by an outdated theory of international politics

NYTimes |  THE Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, continues to surprise. Russia’s military intervention in Syria, followed by a face-to-face meeting in Moscow this week with that country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has startled the world.

As there was after Mr. Putin’s action in Ukraine last year, there has been a chorus of commentary on his supposed strategic genius. He is acting decisively, seizing the initiative and creating facts on the ground — so the narrative goes, in contrast with the West’s feckless pursuits in Syria.

The opposite is true.

Five years ago, Russia was in a much stronger position, both at home and in the world. Today, Mr. Putin is playing defense, doubling down on bad decisions guided by an outdated theory of international politics.

Recognition of Russia’s mistakes, however, does not guarantee future failure. The United States and our allies cannot stand idly by and wait for Russia to fail. Instead, we must adopt a comprehensive strategy to minimize the negative consequences of Russia’s actions and maximize the positive ones of ours.....

.....For different reasons, societies in the Arab world, Ukraine and Russia began to mobilize against their leaders. Initially, President Medvedev sided with the people in the Middle East, notably abstaining from, rather than vetoing, the Security Council resolution that authorized the use of force in Libya. Mr. Medvedev also engaged with opposition leaders in Russia and introduced some modest political reforms before exiting the Kremlin in May 2012.

Mr. Putin, however, had an opposite approach. He believed that behind these protesters was an American hand, and that the response to them — whether in Syria, Egypt, Russia or Ukraine — should be coercion and force.

After his inauguration as president, Mr. Putin pivoted hard against Russia’s demonstrators, labeling them traitors. His tactics derailed the opposition’s momentum.

But his short-term successes have produced long-term costs. Mr. Putin’s paranoia about independent political actors nurtured a growing fear of business interests outside his oligarchical clique. Economic reform stalled, investment declined and state ownership grew.

Political stagnation also settled in. For the first two years of his third term as president, Mr. Putin’s approval rating hovered around 60 percent, his lowest ever. Only his invasion of Ukraine eventually propelled his approval rating back up.