‘Russia, Syria and the US: Parsing Uncle Vlad’ by John McDermott

I always like a sense of humor, even about serious matters and I thought this parsing of Vladimir Putin’s New York Times article on Syria, by John McDermott in the UK Financial Times very insightful, not to mention funny.

http://blogs.ft.com/off-message/2013/09/12/russia-syria-and-the-us-parsing-uncle-vlad/

John says: Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in The New York Times reassuring Americans that he is on their side. Its attempted cuddliness brought to mind the west’s wartime image of another Russian leader. I am surprised this one did not sign the piece Uncle Vlad.

What follows is an attempt at parsing Putin:

MOSCOW – RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders.

Recent events surrounding Barack Obama have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders.

It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

It is important to do so at a time of insufficient recognition of Russia’s importance.

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.

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. My PR team tells me that this article will go live on September 11. Coincidence.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country … This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

The weapons we supplied to the government were maintaining stability. You let the Qataris and the Saudis ruin it.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future.

From the outset, Russia has assumed that the west would not seek to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime by force. This is still the case, so I am here to help.

We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.

We are not protecting the Syrian government, but our interpretation of international law.

The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the [UN] Security Council.

Syria is not Iraq. Syria is also not Georgia.

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.

No one doubts that poison gas was used by the Syrian government. But you have not thought about it in a realpolitik sort of way. That is what I am here for.

Reports that militants are preparing another attack – this time against Israel – cannot be ignored.

Reports that militants are preparing another attack – this time against Israel – cannot be ignored by members of the US Congress.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.

It is alarming for Russia that despite the US electing a Democrat who opposed the Iraq war and who told me he would “reset” our relations, military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the US.

Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.

Is it in America’s long-term interest? Let me help you with that. I am a grown-up statesman, an auteur of realpolitik. Your president is an amateur.

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”.

Readers of The New York Times: your president is no different from George W Bush. Don’t support him. And forget about that Alexei Navalny guy over here.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days.

I love John Kerry. Why didn’t you vote for him?

The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction.

The US must take advantage of this accident of history and trust your friend, Uncle Vlad. (And none of this contradicts what I wrote a few paragraphs ago about how the rebels were the ones using the chemical weapons.)

Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

Can you believe that your president hasn’t bothered to talk to your Uncle Vlad for more than 20 minutes? Hasn’t he read George Kennan? We Russians need attention.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama recently reached Kennedy-Khrushchev levels and has since improved marginally. Americans, you should appreciate that I have been so understanding.

I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday.

I smiled throughout 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.

Stop interfering. You may be familiar with the Brezhnev Doctrine. This is the Putin Doctine. Trust your Uncle Vlad.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Humor, Conflict Processes, Middle East Conflict, US Political Conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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