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A number of attempts have been made to discern and describe a 'Putin doctrine' during the years of his influence on Russian and world affairs, including some recently as a consequence of his reaction to the Syria chemical weapons crisis. Most suggest a doctrine of 'reasserting Russia's power' or 'building Russia up by tearing the US down,' an aspiration and strategy which, while arguably correct, seem to miss Putin's underlying and unmistakeable political philosophy.

Here we propose an argument for a 'Putin doctrine' as follows:

No nation, group of nations or international organisation has the right to interfere or intervene without consent in the internal affairs of any sovereign state under any circumstances short of the proven violation of existing conventions governing the use of weapons of mass destruction.
In other words a sovereign state has the right to deal with dissent, insurgency and secession by whatever means it otherwise sees fit. That this might include conventional warfare against civilians, mass arrests and detentions, summary executions, massacres, genocide and authoritarian terrorism is left to the discretion of the state's leadership. And if the state is an ally, Russia will actively disable the Security Council from taking action against it on behalf of any majority of the larger international community whom might find such activity objectionable. As Russian 'hard power' inevitably increases we need to think this through carefully.

This has been his argument against the West since Kosovo, this formalises what Russia is doing in Syria, this has been the mutually respectful framework, beyond Caspian resource sharing and a mutual distrust of the West, for which the autocracies of Iran and China have already signed up and this is the offer now being placed demonstrably on the world geopolitical table for any neighbouring republic or regime on the fringes of the former Soviet sphere of influence.

Ironically this is almost an inversion of the Truman doctrine of 1947, where "totalitarian regimes" coerced "free peoples", and which some claim heralded the formal Cold War. Putin is now standing against free peoples coercing totalitarian regimes and his principal means will be by wielding the Security Council; the Russian veto on the one hand along with an intractable insistence that multilateral or unilateral end runs are illegal and unacceptable; with Russian military force ready to back the 'legal' claims of authoritarian legitimacy.

So the law-abiding Russians want to constrain the US to acting within the UN, which probably matches the view of many progressives and internationalists, but only to smother possible future sanctions and interventions with vetoes. And the tragic examples of Grozny and Syria should be sufficient to see what is at stake. We need to consider the kind of rule such naked internal power inspires and the impact it would have on Russia's, and China's, clients and immediate neighbours.

Here's Ariel Cohen's analysis of the Russian Foreign Ministry's updated Foreign Policy Concept of February, 2013:

The Putin Doctrine proclaims that the United Nations is the principal international institution through which Russia implements its foreign policy, because Russia has a veto in the U.N. Security Council. Further, the document states that there is a threat for “world peace and stability” from “unilateral sanctions and other coercive measures, including armed aggression,” outside the framework of the Security Council.

The Concept warns that “some concepts that are being implemented are aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments in sovereign states under the pretext of protecting civilian population.” This is a clear reference to the NATO action in Libya. At the time, Putin said the Security Council resolution was “reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade.”

Ariel Cohen - The Kremlin's World NYT 5 Apr 13

While Cohen sees the 'doctrine' as broader this observation speaks to our point. And it is exactly the pressure to "overthrow legitimate governments in sovereign states" that raised Russian outrage over NATO action in Kosovo; an area very much within former Tsarist and Soviet spheres of influence. It is no accident that Putin's rise to power was engineered on the back of a brutal and merciless war prosecuted against Chechens in Grozny, perpetrating the worst tactics of shelling, bombing, mass execution and intimidation among civilians apparent in the former Yugoslavia while blatantly thumbing his nose at international objection and protest. He even used ballistic missiles to attack the city, hitting a maternity hospital and a mosque, in a symbolic act of defiance.

Remember, when Putin says "terrorist" he means anyone who opposes him or the leadership of his allies, human rights issues notwithstanding. Our language of asymmetrical conflict has become his justification for aggression, oppression and authoritarianism:

Nothing angers the Chechens so much as to hear that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president-elect, who yesterday met Tony Blair and the Queen in London, claim that the war, of which he is the architect and beneficiary, is directed against "terrorists" and not the Chechen people as a whole. From the moment the Russian army invaded Chechnya at the beginning of last October, it relied on the firepower of its artillery, rocket launchers and aircraft to devastate towns and villages.

When several long-range, ground-to-ground missiles plummeted into a Grozny marketplace last October, killing some 200 people, Mr Putin simply denied that it had happened. He showed no signs of embarrassment when the official Russian military spokesman blithely confirmed the attack a few hours later.

Welcome to Mr Putin's Grozny Independent 18 Apr 00

That this same logic has been applied to the opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime seems perfectly obvious. It should be noted that the contagious spread of the narrative of "terrorism" to encompass legitimate dissent, civil disobedience and even armed criminality is a trend we need to quickly reverse among our own organs of state security. It plays into the hands of our adversary whom in this respect has already anticipated us by over a decade.

Cross-posted at The Motley Moose

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow! Hardcore Rightwing, Conservative sourcing... (17+ / 0-)

    Focuing upon Ariel Cohen, from the Heritage Foundation.

    Seriously?

    And, then: Ilai Z. Saltzman, Dmitri Trenin, André Glucksmann, Charles Krauthammer, whom I'd call the most "liberal" person on the list.

    You gotta' be kidding me?

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:40:48 PM PDT

    •  I thought I had found the old PNAC website (11+ / 0-)

      "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

      by LaFeminista on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:03:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  and the ostensible doctrine itself (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobswern, Johnny Q, shaharazade

      would be news to the ukraine, belarus and georgia, among others...

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:07:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reuters' great coverage tonight, curbs enthusiasm (5+ / 0-)

        When Bob Menendez, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, notes that, MAYBE, people should be curbing their enthusiasm, perhaps a few hundred Kossacks should listen!

        I know..."Things could be worse." (That's getting quite played out around here, IMHO. And, I know--regarding Senator Menendez' wake-up call--this is asking for a lot, right? Who am I to put a wet blanket on so much irrational exuberance?)

        Assad government hails 'victory' in arms deal, troops attack
        By Oliver Holmes
        BEIRUT | Sun Sep 15, 2013 6:21pm EDT

        …Even Obama's Democratic supporters are wary. If Assad scorns his commitments, said Senator Robert Menendez, "We're back to where we started - except Assad has bought more time on the battlefield and has continued to ravage innocent civilians…."
        ...

        …But rebels, calling the international focus on poison gas a sideshow, have dismissed talk the arms pact might herald peace talks and said Assad has stepped up an offensive with ordinary weaponry now that the threat of U.S. air strikes has receded.

        A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition repeated that it wanted world powers to prevent Assad from using his air force, tanks and artillery on civilian areas.

        "Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons," Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center wrote in the Atlantic magazine. "Now, he can get away with nearly anything - as long as he sticks to using good old conventional weapons."…

        …"It's a clever proposal from Russia to prevent the attacks," said an Assad supporter from the port city of Tartous.

        An opposition activist in Damascus echoed disappointment among rebel leaders: "Helping Syrians would mean stopping the bloodshed," he said. Poison gas is estimated to have killed only hundreds of the more than 100,000 dead in a war that has also forced a third of the population to flee their homes since 2011…

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:21:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not Sure What You Are Saying... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fogiv

        Putin's policies toward Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia have been arguably and to varying degrees aggressive and largely unsuccessful. The dispute with Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia is worth discussing as it is a fairly blatant example of Russia being on the wrong side of the argument, from a 'Putin doctrine' point of view. Of course the Russians would argue the disputable sovereignty of the breakaway regions dating back to 1991-92 reinforces their case.

    •  I Didn't Say... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eglantine, scott5js, Fogiv

      They were right, just that they had a swing at it. Seriously, the diary states what it states. I only quoted Cohen on the point I think he articulated correctly and most of that was a direct lift from the Russian Foreign Ministry's own document in the first place. I didn't want to be accused of proposing a 'Putin doctrine' without acknowledging it had been attempted before.

      Why is this a matter of partisan politics anyhow? Putin is what he is. It seems to me we need to remain alert to what is going on with this transition in foreign policy as a consequence of Obama's arguably prescient actions.

      Seems to me Obama has a pretty cogent understanding of what he is up against.

      •  "What he's up against?" (4+ / 0-)

        According to polls, that'd be the wishes of about 90% of the population.

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:42:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well Yes... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sviscusi, scott5js, Fogiv

          That's right. And not helped by the charismatic fluffing that Putin's enjoyed in recent weeks.

          My point isn't to address the pros and cons of US policy in response to the Syrian crisis, although that's something we could do, but to have a look at what Putin's really doing here.

          Most neo-cons are making the argument that this is a proxy war, a conflict between Sunnis on the one hand and Shi'ites on the other; US and Russian proxies respectively. I'm saying that's nonsense; Putin is setting a marker for despots and tyrannies worldwide and using the legalities of the UN to reinforce his case. That's a novel approach and he's got Iran and China aboard.

          I'm suggesting we are going to have think about strategy; how we use the UN to further egalitarian principles and not let it be used for the opposite purpose.

          As I wrote, it seems Putin is inverting the Truman doctrine, standing against free peoples coercing totalitarian states. That's a problem going forward and he's got a case we need to have a sound argument against; it is defensive, fearful and cruel.  Putin is afraid of losing power himself but he is trying to leverage that fear into a policy which appeals to other authoritarian states whom might further his ambitions. It really is all about the veto on the Security Council and he is going to milk it for all it is worth.

          •  If Putin didn't veto U.S. UN action, China would (5+ / 0-)

            Aside from re-phrasing some cold war-era talking points, I don't understand what point you're trying to make here, frankly.

            Syria ain't Chechnya.

            No, IMHO, the neocons and conservatives (in both parties) are making it all about Putin/Russia and al Qaeda. Objective observers are noting it is a proxy war; and the "rebels" are heavily influenced by al Qaeda, for sure.

            The U.S. has, historically (over the past 30+/- yrs, in any event) shifted its allegiances (back and forth, as the situation warranted it) as far as al Qaeda's/Taliban is concerned.

            Read tonight's Reuters article, IMHO, which I've blockquoted, above, for one of the more objective pieces I've read on the subject in the past few days.

            Have you bothered to do any research on Tartous (Tartus)? It's the only remaining base for Russia outside of Russia. It's comprised of a couple of warehouses, a tiny barracks and some sheds, for all intents and purposes. There are, roughly, a dozen people there at any given time.  (I believe there are even fewer there now.) Look it up on Wikipedia.

            Russia's a shell of what the U.S.S.R. was. It's basically an energy-producing state, nowadays.

            "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

            by bobswern on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 12:28:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Fogiv

              Well I'm actually making the opposite case, that Syria is a lot like Chechnya, and that Assad's mentor will run interference for him while he reprises the brutal suppression of an insurgency using the same methods of authoritarian intimidation. That's exactly what I'm saying.

              Not sure what you are saying about the 'proxy' argument, frankly, but it seems the long and short of our perception and in reality there are plenty of Islamist Syrian insurgents whom probably deserve sympathy on the grounds of being victims of a totalitarian regime. And there are plenty who are salafist fanatics too, mostly from outside Syria or fighting with foreign led groups. Enough that the US has an almost impossible obstacle in supporting the insurgency. And yeah Russia has some kudos from Iran and Hezbollah for fighting the good fight against the Sunnis but it doesn't strike me as the issue they are willing to go to the mat over.

              Let's be clear, a few days ago there were ten Russian warships in the Eastern Mediterranean; that's probably as good a Russian naval showing as we've seen since Tsushima. Sort of kidding there but still.  I agree that the military infrastructure of Russia is still a bit shaky but it is not for want of trying; they are running a considerable military budget. It is a bit frustrating to Putin, to be sure, but if we conceive of the Russian military as it was in the 1990s we are missing the point. Sooner or later it will be capable and the will to use it is already evident.

              As for Tartus there is potential there but it is hardly a strategic base; looking at Russian naval strategy going back to the 19th century they have had a pretty spotty history with forward bases outside of their sovereign borders. Port Arthur, the example that springs to mind, was a disaster in spite of building an overland rail link which just doesn't seem to be an option in this case.

              The Reuters piece is balanced but seems a bit of a summary piece, not sure what you were getting at there but noticed this quote:

              Speaking of the U.S.-Russian deal, Syrian minister Ali Haidar told Moscow's RIA news agency: "These agreements ... are a victory for Syria, achieved thanks to our Russian friends."
              While the airstrikes roll in; terrific. That rather supports the argument I'm making, doesn't it?
            •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              scott5js, Fogiv
              If Putin didn't veto U.S. UN action, China would.
              That's exactly the point. But why? Sure China is going to be inclined to vote the status quo in the balance of power. But if we are going to operate with the UN as our dispute resolution mechanism we need to learn what motivations might put a little daylight between Russia and China. At the moment they have a lot in common as authoritarian states with potential insurgencies within their own borders.
            •  China (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              scott5js, Fogiv

              While the bear is away the dragon will play:

              Alexander Rahr, research director of the German-Russian Forum and an expert on Russia and Central Asia, believes President Vladimir Putin actively decided to allow the Chinese into the region as a tactical move to keep relations good with its powerful neighbor in the east.

              "I think this was a firm choice, a difficult choice, but it was made," he says. "He cannot afford to have geopolitical battles with NATO and the West on the one hand and, parallel to that, battles with China for influence in Central Asia."

              Kremlin Calm As China's Clout Rises In Russia's Backyard Radio Free Europe 16 Sep 13

              That's the thing about geopolitics, something always has to be allowed to slip away.
          •  you should really be diarying (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Johnny Q, ukit, LaFeminista, PhilK, shaharazade

            about the Obama Doctrine, which he declared quite explicitly in Sweden--much more explicitly than your vague, murky "Putin Doctrine."

            Apparently he, like you, thinks that unilateral US military action absent a UNSC resolution does not violate the UN charter. That is a more radical position than Bush ever took.

            It really is all about the veto on the Security Council and he is going to milk it for all it is worth.
            You are aware we have vetoed more UNSC resolutions than any of the other five permanent members?
            Since 1970, China has used its veto power eight times, and Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has used its veto power 13 times. However, the United States has used its veto power 83 times, primarily in defense of allies accused of violating international humanitarian law. Forty-two of these US vetoes were to protect Israel from criticism for illegal activities, including suspected war crimes. To this day, Israel occupies and colonizes a large swath of southwestern Syria in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions, which the United States has successfully blocked from enforcing. Yet, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that it is the Russians and Chinese who have "neutered" the Security Council in its ability to defend basic human rights.
            So Russia would have to veto almost eight times as many resolutions as they have in order to "milk it" as much as the US has.

            If there is any nation acting like a rogue state in the Syria brouhaha, it's the US. Not Russia.

            "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

            by limpidglass on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 12:36:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  There's not much "free" about the Syrian rebels... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PhilK

            And glibly ignoring the role of religion in the conflict allows advocate of American imperialism to prattle on about freedom. And bombs.

            And what's the real argument against containment as directed against the US? I don't see one.

            "Toutes les guerres sont civiles, car c'est toujours l'homme contre l'homme... (All wars are civil wars, because it's always brother against brother...)" - Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)

            by Superskepticalman on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 04:21:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fogiv

      No soup for me. Again.

  •  Russia and the USA (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ukit, LanceBoyle, scott5js

    do share a mutual objective in Syria, however. Neither government considers Al Qaeda control of Syria as being a superior alternative to Assad's rule.

    And given that wars are expensive, financially and otherwise, many of us, myself included, are very happy with the current efforts between Russia's and the America's governments to negotiate a peaceful solution to the chemical weapons problem in Syria.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:47:58 PM PDT

    •  assad (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobswern, DeadHead, shaharazade

      is gloating.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:04:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fogiv

      No argument there. And getting rid of the chemical stockpile is worth doing. But we need to understand that part of the benefit to Putin, at least, is that it leaves the Syrian regime standing temporarily, he's basically trading the stockpile for a better chance at achieving that aim.

      But my larger point is that even if Russia ultimately consents to a political solution in Syria which omits the Assads and/or the Ba'ath party, which I think they will still fight hard to avoid, it will be because the regime used chemical weapons, not because they were illegitimate or guilty of oppression, massacres or authoritarian terrorism against civilians by conventional means. That's the point I am trying to make.

  •  When the US says terrorist, I wonder what we (5+ / 0-)

    mean then; from recent wars we can surmise it is anyone we label as such.

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 11:39:17 PM PDT

    •  Yeah... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fogiv

      That's a big problem I think we need to fix immediately. In this respect we are falling into the same reflexive posture that Putin is making such mileage with.

      •  We have been doing it for decades, it's our (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        go to position. Hard to change when we have so much invested in repeating it time and time again.

        "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

        by LaFeminista on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 12:14:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princesspat, scott5js, Fogiv

          That's partly the point I'm trying to make in the diary; as we move from propping up dictatorships Russia seems to be making a play for aligning with them. Not saying that is a reason not to let this policy lapse, just that we need to be aware of how Putin is positioning himself as a consequence. I think he is getting too far out over his skis in some respects.

          The same with the 'terrorism' thing. If every citizen of Grozny or Damascus who opposes whichever tyrant is in power is a 'terrorist' than the global war on terror becomes the global protection racket for despots. There's a lot to consider here; we need to get smart about this.

  •  This is true but the exception seems to be made (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fogiv

    for Russia itself. When it has a problem with another country (e.g. Georgia), according to the doctrine it should be free to deal with it however it feels like.

  •  This analysis seems to assume good faith (5+ / 0-)

    on the part of the U.S. while painting Russia's motives in the most sinister terms possible. They are enabling "warfare against civilians, mass arrests and detentions, summary executions, massacres, genocide and authoritarian terrorism". Sheesh.

    But how likely is it that two great powers would really have such divergent motives? Wouldn't it be more realistic to say that the U.S. and Russia are both concerned simply with perpetuating their strategic interests through whatever means they have available?

    The U.S. has the military means necessary to take unilateral action, and often does so in ways that serve its strategic aims. Russia has the diplomatic means to block the U.S. at the U.N., denying it legitimacy, and often does so in ways that serve its strategic aims.

    Both countries cloak their actions in rhetoric about this and that, but no one should be fooled by this. Russia is not going to go against its own interests to uphold the so-called sovereignty principle. Nor is the U.S. going to stand up for protestors in U.S.-aligned dictatorships.

    Consider our own alliances in the Middle East and ask yourself which country actually does more to prop up repressive regimes:

    Indeed, President Obama has repeatedly touted what he calls "the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia" and "the importance of our bilateral relationship" and often vows "to continue cooperating closely on a range of issues".

    In other words, the single most repressive regime in that region is also America's closest ally. Eakin also notes that while Saudi leaders have exploited the rhetoric of the Arab Spring to undermine leaders its dislikes (primarily in Syria and Iran), its only direct action was to send its troops into Bahrain "to stave off a popular revolt and prop up the Bahraini monarchy" and use "its influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance of autocratic Persian Gulf states, to pull together support for the beleaguered royal houses of Morocco and Jordan." About all of this Saudi bolstering of tyranny, Eakin says: "The White House has remained silent."

    Actually, that's not quite accurate. The US has been there every step of the way with its close Saudi allies in strengthening these same tyrannies. As the Bahraini regime has systematically killed, tortured, and imprisoned its own citizens for the crime of demanding democracy, the Obama administration has repeatedly armed it and trumpeted the regime as "a vital US partner in defense initiatives" and "a Major Non-NATO Ally". The US continues to be a close partner of the Yemeni dictator ("elected" as the only candidate allowed on the ballot). And it stands as steadfastly as ever behind the Gulf State monarchies of Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar as, to varying degrees, they repress democratic movements and imprison dissidents.

    http://www.theguardian.com/...

    And this doesn't even get into the issue of Israel. So why is Russia branded as the defender of dictatorship and human rights violations? I have trouble understanding how anyone can arrive at this conclusion.

    •  Good Points (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ukit, Fogiv
      Wouldn't it be more realistic to say that the U.S. and Russia are both concerned simply with perpetuating their strategic interests through whatever means they have available?
      No argument there; but this is precisely the point which I'm clearly failing to make. The UN Security Council veto along with a legal argument against unilateral or multilateral action outside of a UN mandate is an emerging "means" that Putin, at least, seeks to wield as a counter to perceived US hegemony. It's always been available but Putin seems determined to make it his accessible and unswerving policy. Read the NYT op-ed again and see if this theme is not intrinsic to his argument.
      The U.S. has the military means necessary to take unilateral action, and often does so in ways that serve its strategic aims. Russia has the diplomatic means to block the U.S. at the U.N., denying it legitimacy, and often does so in ways that serve its strategic aims.
      Well said, but it is exactly the "military means necessary to take unilateral action" which Putin seeks to counter with the denial of legitimacy plus a growing military and naval ability. Add to this the war weariness of the American public and the recalcitrance of Britain and a range of opportunities emerge. It is exactly this dynamic which I am suggesting is emerging; I believe we will see more of it in future and it seems Putin's intention to increasingly use it to frustrate US power wherever it is found.

      But it beats me how you can dismiss the conflicts in Chechnya or Syria as anything less than brutal and ruthless. I'm not saying US foreign adventures have been any less deadly to civilians but we're hopefully getting out of that line of work. The Russians seem happy for their allies to take up the slack; this is their answer to the Arab Spring when it arrives in a Russian client state. And they will mobilise the UN to justify it and give us lectures on international law all the while it goes on.

      •  I think it could be argued though that Syria (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shaun Appleby, Fogiv

        is a somewhat unique case, a long-standing ally of Russia that also happens to be an enemy of the U.S. and its allies. Iran is the only other country I can think of that might create such an obvious flashpoint.

        Also while I didn't mean to dismiss the brutality of the Assad government, it's interesting to note that there are some disturbing parallels to our own experience. The Assad family didn't just use "fighting terrorism" as an excuse; they actually were targeted by terrorists, including a dramatic attack where Assad's father narrowly escaped assassination:

        From 1976 to 1982, Sunni Islamists fought the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria in what has been called "long campaign of terror". Islamists attacked both civilians and off-duty military personnel, and civilians were also killed in retaliatory strike by security forces. The Muslim Brotherhood was blamed for the terror by the government, although the insurgents used names such as Kata'ib Muhammad (Phalanges of Muhammad, begun in Hama in 1965 Marwan Hadid) to refer to their organization.
        These assassinations led up to the 16 June 1979 slaughter of cadets at the Aleppo Artillery School. On that day a member of school staff, Captain Ibrahim Yusuf, assembled the cadets in the dining-hall and then let in the gunmen who opened fire on the cadets...

        The cadet massacre "marked the start of full-scale urban warfare" against Alawis, cadre of the ruling Ba'ath party, party offices, "police posts, military vehicles, barracks, factories and any other target the guerrillas could attack." In the city of Aleppo between 1979 and 1981 terrorists killed over 300 people, mainly Ba'thists and Alawis, but also a dozen Islamic clergy who had denounced the murders. Of these the most prominent was Shaykh Muhammad al-Shami, who was slain in his own mosque, the Sulaymaniya, on 2 February 1980.

        On 26 June 1980, the president of Syria, Hafez al-Asad, "narrowly escaped death" when attackers threw two grenades and fired machine gun bursts at him as he waited at a diplomatic function in Damascus.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/...

        The response to all of this was the brutal, indiscriminate slaughter of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the development of the Syrian government into the repressive police state it is today, with torture, secret police and constant surveillance of its citizens. But this history is worth considering given that the rebel forces today are largely made up of Sunni Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood. So it's not that difficult for Assad to paint this as a continuation of the earlier conflict against the "terrorists", even mirroring his father's belief that Jordan and Israel helped fund and arm the earlier wave of Muslim Brotherhood terror.

        •  Very Interesting Reply (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ukit, Fogiv

          The notion of Syria as a "special case" in Putin's calculus is worth considering, we'll get back to that.

          By comparing Assad's history of terrorism to "our own experience" I'm assuming you are referring to 9/11? Because that's a very interesting argument. By extension then I suppose the massacre in Hama is analogous to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

          There's no question that Assad's secular, minority rule has been violently challenged by Islamists. One could reach back a bit further and look at Syria's original relationship with Nasser's pan-Arabic socialism which very nearly united both countries. It is no accident that this model of Islamic socialism attracted the attentions of the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact inspired its founding, in both countries as a threat to the ambitions of Muslim theocracy.

          Assad was almost persuaded to join in a negotiated settlement of the Golan not so many years ago and Obama took the trouble to send an ambassador. But things went pear shaped in Daraa and here we are. I can't think of a recent conflict Syria more resembles for brutality and cruelty than Grozny except Assad may have earned the distinction of actually killing more of his own citizens than Putin did.

          But back to your sui generis argument. Here's my point; Russia's diplomatic relationships with former republics, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Iran and to a lesser degree China all share some disdain for the pluralistic, democratic traditions we think so highly of and are sick of being lectured about it. By providing his natural alliance with a veneer of policy invoking the rights of sovereignty and vowing to use the legal framework of the Security Council to defend Syria's freedom of action he may claim the support of an unrepentant bloc of authoritarian powers whom may also seek the protection of their patrons' vetoes. This could augment Putin's authority and regional power and it is a model China could adopt as needed.

          Not saying this is anything new, specifically, but it is a reuse of a Cold War tactic in a new context. Read Putin's op-ed again and see if you can discern the whole pitch.

      •  Getting out of that line (0+ / 0-)

        of work? Wow. As long as we have not so secret dirty wars in this region going on, drone bombing, overt and covert spooks stirring the sectarian conflicts we've created and acerbated, COIN, regime change and destabilizing nation states that do not submit to our 'interests'. How can you say that we are getting out of this line. Will we repeal the odious AUFM, and declare the war on terra is over? Will we stop drone bombing people we decide are a threat or a preemptive threat? I think not.

         US power and our client states in this region are in no way getting out of this line of work. The Bush doctrine of endless preemptive war is alive and well. The Syrian debacle is just another move in the old Great Game, that became the PNAC and is now billed as the GWOT. How many ME civilians including children have we killed since 9/11. How is Syria separate from the carnage and destruction we unleashed on Irag or Afghanistan? The UN is played and used by all the power players in this geopolitical game including the US. International law, war crimes and  do not apply to the US's GWOT as the world is the battlefield. What makes you say we're getting out of this line of work? It's the main job of our mighty MIC and it is the enforcer for the US's interest's.                

        •  I Was Referring... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fogiv

          To the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; which is actually a pretty big deal. You can make the argument that we are in perpetual war if you like but the fact that we are ending those and not starting any new ones is a change in policy with significant outcomes.

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