Even in Russia where lying has become “an officially approved social norm” and where leaders on big things and small–even they–find it impossible to lie all the time because to maintain consistency in a world where everything is a lie is impossible and thus they sometimes perhaps unintentionally and unwillingly speak the truth.
That is what happened to Vladimir Putin yesterday, according to Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, who points out that the Kremlin leader said that the task of Russian forces in Syria was first and foremost to achieve “the stabilization of the legitimate authorities in that country.”
Not the defeat of ISIS, as Putin has said before and as Western leaders want, Vishnevsky notes, but precisely the propping up of the Syrian dictator. And from that flows another acknowledgement: terrorists in Putin’s view are not those in the Islamic State alone but rather “all who are against Bashar Assad.”
That is what Russian opposition figures, Western officials and representatives of the Syrian opposition have been saying for some time. Now, Putin has implicitly acknowledged that they were right and his spokesmen were lying, Vishnevsky continues, a remarkable “transition from ‘a bold lie!’ to ‘yes, and so what?’”
Unfortunately, the St. Petersburg legislator and commentator says, this is nothing new for Putin. The same thing has happened regarding Crimea and the Donbas – albeit with one major difference. In the Donbas, when some rebelled against the legitimate government, Putin backed the rebels and not “’stabilization,’” at least not of a kind anyone else would recognize.
This is a reminder to Russians and others of the need to keep careful track of what Putin says because sometimes he can’t avoid allowing the truth from slipping out, something that is important not only for Western leaders who have to deal with him but also for Russians who have to live under his power.
It is especially important for the latter because Putin’s military adventures in Ukraine and now in Syria for reasons he first denied and only later admitted has cost every Russian man, woman and child about 2500 US dollars. “Remember that,” Vishnevsky says, “when you go into a store or get your apartment housing bills.”