Vladimir Putin is acting in Syria as he has in Ukraine on the basis of his conviction that no matter what Russia does, Barack Obama will not respond militarily and that as a result, Moscow has every incentive to raise the stakes in order to force negotiations and gain even more concessions from the West, according to Konstantin Borovoy.
Arguing that “a war between the US and Russia has begun” but that Putin believes he can win it without a direct military confrontation with the US, the head of the Western Choice Party says that the Kremlin leader has concluded “there is now no president in the US but instead a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.”
According to Borovoy, Putin has sent troops into Syria just as he has in Ukraine “not for the conduct of war but for its declaration, as a provocation and showing of the flag. Putin needs a casus belli but not a war” as such. And he believes that will work on the basis of his conclusion that the US is weak, something Russian intelligence agencies and lobbyists assure him is true.
The latest indication of what Putin is successfully trying to achieve, the Russian commentator continues, are the talks between the defense ministers of the US and Russia, a “pathetic” effort by the US to avoid having to acknowledge that Russia has entered the Syrian conflict against the US and the West.
“To conclude ‘agreements’ at the level of defense ministers with someone who does not observe internationally signed and ratified agreements shows naiveté,” he says, because Putin will violate this “at the first opportunity” and then blame the US for the violations. And he will sacrifice Russian lives to that end as he has in the past.
“Putin’s real goal is not war but the creation of such pre-war tension that he US will be forced to enter into broadscale negotiations. The current [US] president will do everything possible in this situation not to begin military actions” and thus “will agree to talks in any format” and will be ready “in advance” to make concessions to Putin.
Putin’s demands in this situation are obvious, Borovoy says. They are “Crimea is ours, Syria is ours, Iran is ours, end all sanctions, provide financial assistance to Russia and respect the interests of Russia in the world.” And the Kremlin leader wants to be able to make those at a meeting with Obama and other world leaders.
In this situation, the West doesn’t have a large number of options, the Russian commentator says. It can face a long period of Russian provocations and apparent pullbacks, but it will not do anything but lose slowly because Putin believes he can act with impunity and so will continue to do so.
That will be a black day for the West, but on the other hand, Borovoy says, it will “justify” Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Meanwhile, Putin will force Russians to tighten their belts, but he will succeed in convincing them that their problems have not been caused by him but by “the military provocateur Obama” and thus they will not only accept the situation but support Putin in his further aggression.
In reality, he continues, Obama has only “a single way out – supplying arms to Ukraine, and not just defensive ones but those that will allow Ukraine to attack. Russia’s armed forces in fact are not prepared for a real military conflict.” At present, however, Putin is certain that Obama won’t do that.
There remains “only one question: what in fact ought the American president to do in this situation?” Borovoy suggests two steps: “giving a military response to Putin in Syria and Ukraine, immediately, rapidly and very effectively,” and “taking up the problems of the c special services having freed them from the influence of the network of Putin’s agents.”
Unfortunately, the Russian commentator implies, there does not seem to be much chance of either.