As a diesel belching aircraft carrier ploughs the English Channel, one might be persuaded to think the cold war is alive and well. Maybe you’d be right, except that there seems to be a one way paranoia. As another crazy man might say “This guy Putin is nuts.”
He’d have a point. One has to concede that Putin is at best putting the world at extreme risk, continually pushing the West into tight corners and daring the Americans and their allies to confront him in Syria. Even if he has to bomb aid columns and kill children in the process.
The Russian propaganda machine insists that Putin is supporting the legitimate government of Syria against terrorist forces and that the annihilation of Aleppo is simply a necessary military tactic. This an argument which might have some validity if the slaughter of innocent civilians was in doubt.
The motives for Russian support are well known, Putin is desperately trying to maintain a Mediterranean base in order to prolong the idea of Russia as a world power. Likewise Putin is proliferating the spread of Russian troops along the borders of the new NATO members of the Baltic Region. His invasion of Ukraine and the Crimea went well for him, there was no meaningful response from the West at all. He even had indirect responsibility for the shooting down of a civilian airliner and no one batted an eyelid. Again he is trying to aggravate the West to a point where the West responds aggressively, if for no other reason than frustration. In the meantime of course children continue to die in Syria.
What to do? Well firstly my American friends don’t elect Trump, one lunatic leader is quite enough. Secondly keep talking, the long-time “jaw-jaw” of Ambassador Kerry must have been one of the great trials for any diplomat in any age. It is easy to say he has achieved nothing, but the alternative, namely a military response could well have led to a ghastly nuclear war.
Russia is in a poor economic state and Putin blames everyone else except, of course, his government. His increasing spend on militaria’ will do nothing for the standard of living of Russian citizens, and this is ultimately where his power lies. There only two ways to go for the West,
1) Exert benign investment into Russia to improve the lot of the ordinary Russian or
2) Exert sanctions which will exacerbate the pain of the populace and make life so miserable that they will demand change.
The first option is the most difficult, showing the hand of friendship to a paranoid leader certainly has its downsides, massive corruption being just one of the issues.
The second option is easier and to some extent has been used already. However this is akin to baiting the Bear and has some very obvious downsides.
Whatever we do, let’s keep talking.