That the Russians conduct foreign policy in a radically way from Western governments, and in way their Western “partners” find baffling, has once again been illustrated by the latest comments made today by Russian President Putin.
Most international attention has rightly focused on President Putin’s comment that more ‘false flag chemical attacks’ in Syria are on the way.
Putin is obviously right about this. Even without access to the vast treasure trove of information Putin gets from his intelligence services it is possible to guess it. I did so myself just a few days ago
..regardless of what exactly happened at Khan Sheikhoun, the Jihadis in Syria now know that all they have to do is stage a chemical attack and the President will oblige them by launching missiles on President Assad’s forces without an investigation and without seeking Congressional or UN Security Council approval. That all but guarantees that staging more chemical attacks is precisely what the Jihadis will now do.
One does not have to be a prophet to see how this situation could escalate from now on, even if that is not the President’s wish, and how he is now in a much weaker position to prevent that happening.
However a more interesting comment Putin made today was arguably this one
Why is this happening? Everyone wants to restore relations in the Western community after – thanks to the former US administration – many European countries adopted an anti-Trump position during the election campaign. Syria and Russia, as a common enemy, provide a wonderful platform for consolidation. We are ready to put up with that for a while in the hope that it will eventually lead us to some positive trend based on interaction.
For consumption within America, there are reasons for this. Simply put, political opponents of the incumbent president are still out there, and if anything happens, it will be blamed on him. I have no doubt about that.
(bold italics added)
In other words, President Putin and the Russians are saying that the missile strike on Syria was undertaken in order to resolve internal conflicts both within the US – between Donald Trump and his opponents – and between the Trump administration and the US’s European allies, by uniting all of them against against the West’s traditional enemies: Syria and Russia.
Far from panicking over this Putin and the Russians are willing to let this process play out in the hope that once the problems within the US and between the Trump administration and its European allies have become “consolidated”, the new administration will be able to move forward towards improving relations with Russia.
Such a cool, cynical and realist view of US actions is very typical of Russian thinking, and the Russians are never embarrassed to express themselves in this way. By contrast it is all but inconceivable that any Western politician or official would ever talk publicly about foreign policy in this way.
I doubt in this case that Putin is right. The missile strike does not come across to me as intended to resolve internal problems within the US or the Western alliance. On the contrary it seems to have been cobbled together hurriedly, without much thought. However Putin is certainly right that Donald Trump’s opponents will not change their view of him because of the missile strike, and will turn on him if or when things start to go wrong (“political opponents of the incumbent president are still out there, and if anything happens, it will be blamed on him”). However whilst Putin appears to think this will cause Trump to draw back and change course before it is too late, having given red meat to the regime changers I am not sure that he any longer can.
However what Putin’s comment does show is that the Russians have not yet completely despaired of this administration. Though their confidence in Trump has been badly shaken, the door to better relations with Moscow is still open provided Trump wants to walk through it.