I like him.
At least compared to Robert Mugabe, among others of that sort, I like him.
When one invents a term like “Facsimile Bipolar Political Sociopathy” or trots out another like “Malignant Narcissism” one might caution — or run for cover as social psychologists tend to do — with the phrase “complex, multi-dimensional”: how much of arrogance, demanding egocentric behavior, grandiose delusion, lack of empathy, messianic passion, paranoia, and resistance to criticism might there be in the mix?
Putin, unlike, say, old Qaddafi, knows containment and restraint.
While the critical wonks will follow the Khodorkovsky story and the world in which old friends are friends indeed, Russia’s charming colonel President (king) Putin runs a modern state, and if imperfectly democratic, still a force of its own and one with which to be reckoned — this as Obama — see previous post — may have by now figured out, not that such a challenge to authority as Masha Gessen failed to warn him (reading recommended: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin).
The destabilization of Syria has brought untold suffering to Syrians, and while that suffering and its related economic and political costs might serve to compel an average western politician to action, the same may not have the same impact on a post-Soviet autocrat-become-president who may be more interested in the reflection reflection that conveys control and mastery of a situation and further reflects well in terms of practical character, judgment, and statesmanship.
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Obama’s setting out to transform the middle east may be perceived as having backfired: instead of democracy, such as Egypt, for example, have been handed over, even if by election, to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the methods, in part, of another dictator, albeit one with perhaps a new political environment for navigation.
Putin cannot be blamed for the chill President Mursi has injected into Egypt’s “Arab Spring.”
Furthermore, in relation to NATO, Putin cannot be blamed for Erdogan’s rise and subsequent neutralizing of Kamalist rivals and unfriendly press.
So in Syria, while the 92,000 dead and 3.4 million homeless may help drag his name into it, he didn’t arm — or allow the arming — of rebels against the regime, did he?
As I type, this header is just about one hour old: “Syria’s rebels blame Russia’s Putin for prolonged fight” (Michel Stors, YNet News, May 21, 2013). Toward the end, Stors’ notes:
“Russians have never been very popular with Syrians. During an Islamist rebellion in the 1980s they were targeted by the insurgents for supporting the regime. Pale Americans often complained that Syrians, mistaking them for Russians, jeered at them in the streets.”
In the United States, Obama’s America is emphatically not at war with Islam (nor need it be – my own position is very moderate on this and the related complexity in how the Islamic Small Wars work); in Syria, Obama’s America and some rickety fixing between Saudi (Qatari) and Turkish interests have made the United States an enabler, at least, in the effort to expand Sunni Islam and — eye on the ball, please — isolate the Shiite Ayatollah’s Iran.
Putin, who has made his position clear in Chechnya has similarly made it clear in Syria even while aligning Russia toward Israel and away from playing paddy-cake with Islam.
So far, with the recent deliveries of anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, he’s given the Assad regime (and Maher Al-Assad) breathing space, reduced Iranian capital (in some measure), and playing defense, held Russia’s position; to continue on to “solving Syria” — and this now that he’s more representative of the polyglot desires of the west than the west! — he may have to alter the character of the regime by bringing to it an improved set of contemporary Russian values, the same as to which he responds in his political life today (specifically: the same that keeps Masha Gessen out of prison and eventually turn the Pussy Riot crew back out the streets, presumably toward the end of their two-year term), while sweeping away the terrors of the old Soviet machinery (the development of the FSB and its purposes notwithstanding).
Whether by way of President Putin or not, Russia has come far from what it was in the Soviet Era, but it’s continuing influence wants for reason, and for that oligarchy and money may not suffice; moreover, if Gessen’s portrait of Putin prevails within Putin, that won’t work for history; add this: if he wants to do what he may behind the curtain — back stage, finally – he may have to do it in a way that alters the atmosphere of the conflict even without visible intercession.
Tall order, that.
I think President Putin bright and clever (quiet and strong), and he will find a way to keep Syria in Russia’s sphere as well as make it more democratic, egalitarian, free and tolerant.
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Perhaps I am dreaming.
We shall see.
Rose-colored summary: Putin may not be moved toward western-style intervention, but he may wish to be remembered well, and for that he may engage the Assad family, seek modification of the demands of the challengers, and set Syria on a progressive track.
On that too, we shall see.
I placed reference inline on this post, which I think adds to the on-the-fly blogging experience (even that which hails from the second row seat to history). However, I opened other tabs on this too, and list them here.
Masyuk, Elena. “Gleb Pavlovskiy: “What Putin is most afraid of is to be left out”. Novayagazeta.ru, June 11, 2012: Excerpt from the interview: “A leader is the one chosen by others, and a master is a master regardless of whether you choose him or not.”
Wikipedia. “Narcissistic personality disorder”. Reference provided neither to condemn nor diagnose, but rather to refer to several of the dimensions involved (in relation to this “complex, multidimensional” topic) in suggesting best political policy courses that must prove psychologically satisfying to the leaders who choose, engage, and promote them.
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