From Russia, with love

From Russia, with love
From Russia, with love
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There were reports last week that Russian officials might do some U.S. lobbying on the Syrian crisis, but I’m not sure anyone expected this to lead to Russian President Vladimir Putin publishing this op-ed in the New York Times.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization – the United Nations – was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

Hmm. “We were also allies once” makes it sound like Putin’s not sure we’re allies now. For that matter, given Russia’s history, celebrating the United Nations as the bedrock for global stability seems a little ironic. Besides, if Putin wants to protect the relevance and integrity of the U.N., perhaps he should be a little more responsible when it comes to abusing his veto power.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.

Perhaps. But so too could Syria using chemical weapons to slaughter its citizens with impunity.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.

There’s ample evidence to the contrary. For months, Russia has defended Syria – its ally and customer – and stifled diplomatic progress.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.

Actually, there isn’t “every reason to believe” the chemical weapons were used by the rebels; independent investigations have led to the opposite conclusion.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.

And if there’s one thing Vladimir Putin cares about, it’s bolstering the United States’ long-term interests, right?

Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

For one thing, the “you’re either with us or against us” folks aren’t in power anymore. For another, if there’s anyone who really shouldn’t be delivering lectures on models of democracy, it’s Putin.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Ah yes, lessons on piety from the autocratic former KGB official. This will be persuasive to a U.S. audience. Sure it will.

When it comes to the international stage, the substantive takeaway from this is rather important – it helps solidify Russia’s investment in ridding Syria of chemical weapons. Putin’s going all in, literally putting his commitment in writing, making it that much more difficult for Russia to abandon the diplomatic process in the coming weeks and months. To this extent, I imagine the White House was rather pleased with the op-ed – get past the nonsense and the piece arguably makes the pending proposal more likely.

On domestic politics, though, we’ve seen the right develop strong and unexpected affections for the Russian president, so I expect conservatives will like the op-ed, too. Indeed, this tweet from former White House press secretary Dana Perino last night jumped out at me.

From Russia, with love

First, given that Perino, now a Fox News analyst, doesn’t know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is, I’m not sure how much she should be reflecting on the nuances of U.S.-Russian relations.

Second, as Bill Scher reminds us, if we’re going to talk about instances in which Putin and his administration were laughing at their upper hand over Americans, we might recall the time Perino’s former boss looked into Putin’s eyes and endorsed the quality of the Russian leader’s soul.

Syria, Russia and Vladimir Putin

From Russia, with love