Putin at the Ministry of Defense in Moscow (Alexei Druzhinin / AP)
By his orders to the Russian army to respond “harshly” to any challenge to them in Syria, Vladimir Putin has brought the world to “the brink of war,” in the words of Wacław Radziwinowicz, the Moscow correspondent of Warsaw’s influential Gazeta Wyborcza.
The Polish journalist points out that Putin’s order for Russian forces to “act with maximum severity” and destroy any threat “to the Russian air force or its military infrastructure on the ground” in Syria sets the stage for Russian attacks on Turkey and thus on NATO.
Radziwinowicz has thus said what many are unwilling to say: Putin in his speech – for the text, see here – has made a declaration from which he will find it almost impossible to climb down, an effort designed to force the West to rein in Turkey and make concessions to Moscow’s position in Syria or face the prospect of war.
Moreover, by taking this position, Radziwinowicz suggests, Putin is laying the ground for precisely the kind of thing he and other Russian leaders have done in the past, blaming the victims of Russian aggression for that aggression and gaining the support of those in the West who are prepared to be victims of the latest example of Russian blackmail.