There is much about the op ed that simply stinks. Putin denounces war while conveniently forgetting the horrors of Chechnya, and he gives the impression that Assad’s opposition is composed entirely of al-Qaeda when it actually contains many good democrats. Also, no mention of all the bombs and guns that Russia has sold the Syrian dictatorship. But where Putin scores highly is in his reminder that his position is at least consistent and logical: opposition to foreign intervention overseas matched by a long-term commitment to resisting Islamism at home. Putin has a policy. Obama just has knee-jerk reactions that jerk from one position to the next, spreading chaos across the Middle East.
War hawks insist that we have to do something in Syria if only to put Russia in its place. If we really must see the world in this simplistic, bipolar way then the hawks have done themselves no favours – right now the score is Putin: 146, Obama: 0. Putin has taken a straightforward position and stuck to it. Obama by contrast has a) refused to do anything in Syria for two years, b) been goaded by the British and French into action, c) arbitrarily drawn a “red line” in a press conference, d) denied drawing said line, e) asserted his privilege as President to pursue military action, f) then asked Congress for permission to pursue military action, g) forced congressional leaders to parade in front of the cameras pledging support, h) realised at the last minute that he’s not got the votes in the House to win a vote, and i) decided to do basically what Putin always said he should do by returning to the themes of diplomacy and asking Assad nicely to hand over his chemical weapons. “I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria,” wrote Putin. That translates into Russian as, “I welcome the president’s capitulation to Russia on Syria.”