Putin plays trump card in high-stakes Syria standoffAgence France-Presse . Moscow
After over two years of isolation and vilification as the last significant friend of Bashar al-Assad, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, appears for now to have played a trump card in the Syrian crisis with a plan for the regime to hand over chemical weapons.
If it works, the plan could offer the West a way out of threatened military strikes as retribution for a chemical attack blamed on the regime and restore Russia’s image and regional influence which have been battered throughout the Arab Spring.
Yet Putin will be acutely aware of the risks of the plan backfiring, in particular if the expressions of readiness to implement the plan by Damascus turn out to be an illusion.
Seizing the initiative to promote Russia’s position in front of a worldwide audience, Putin took the unusual step Thursday of publishing an op-ed in The New York Times ‘to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders’.
Putin recalled the alliance between the Soviet Union and United States in Second World War that defeated Nazi Germany and paved the way for the creation of the United Nations Security Council where the victorious Allies still have veto power.
He painted a near-apocalyptic picture of the price of military action against Syria, warning of a ‘new wave of terrorism’ and collapse of the whole global diplomatic system based on the UN.
‘We are not protecting the Syrian government but international law,’ he said.
One of the hallmarks of Putin’s domination of Russia has been an insistence that the country remains a Great Power and he took issue with comments by Obama that American policy is ‘what makes us exceptional’.
‘It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,’ Putin spat back.
Analysts said that the Russian proposal succeeded in striking a chord in the West as it cleverly plays on the reluctance for military action among Western governments, legislatures and societies haunted by the 2003 Iraq war.
The Russian proposal, in the short term, suits everyone as it does not ‘demand the impossible’ said Andrei Baklitsky of the Russian Centre for Policy Studies.
‘If things work out with Syria, Russia will have very elegantly returned itself as an important player in the Middle East,’ he said.
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After over two years of isolation and vilification as the last significant friend of Bashar al-Assad, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, appears for now to have played a trump card in the Syrian crisis with a plan for the regime to hand over chemical weapons. Full story
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