Putin’s ‘achievement’ in Syria: now Russians the target for Muslim anger, Portnikov says

A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Oct. 3, 2016. (Image: Manu Brabo / AP)

A Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Oct. 3, 2016. (Image: Manu Brabo / AP) 

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The murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey is the first victim of the hatred of Russia and Russians among the world’s billion Sunni Muslims that Vladimir Putin has sparked by his support for Syria’s brutal Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s role in the destruction of Aleppo, Vitaly Portnikov says.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Whatever else Putin and others think Moscow achieved in Syria, the Ukrainian commentator says, it is now clear that he has made Russia and Russians into “a real enemy of the Muslim or more precisely the [dominant] Sunni Muslim world” and that both will pay a high price for that.

“I consciously write ‘russkiye’ and not ‘rossiyane’” because the Muslim anger is more likely to be directed at the former than those who are Muslim among the latter, Portnikov says [the Russian word ‘russkiye’ – in its narrow meaning means ethnic Russians, while ‘rossiyane’ means citizens of the Russian Federation — Ed.]. But the tragedy is that many Muslims will view Ukrainians and Belarusians as if they are part of the same problem.

In this way, he says, “Vladimir Putin, the president of an alien country and the enemy of our peoples has made us a hostage of this hatred.” And as a result, “we will die for Aleppo all together,” particularly since death will be visited upon us not by a bullet but by bombs that don’t distinguish carefully along ethnic or civic lines.

This bomb is going to follow Russians everywhere in their own country and when they are abroad, he says. “And no special services will defend them from such death. The Putin special services are focused on defending the regime from its own people rather than defending them from those taking revenge from abroad.”

Putin and his acolytes will not acknowledge this, of course. He and they will portray “the liberation of Aleppo from terrorists and the victory of Trump as foretastes of new victories for the supporters of Russia in the West and the possible lifting of sanctions,” and they will view Ukraine as a country that soon will live again within the borders of “a single great power.”

But they will be wrong to do so, Portnikov argues.

Russia after Aleppo is going to experience only “hatred, blood, death and poverty” although of course, this situation is not the product of Aleppo alone. The destruction of that city has become “a symbol of the moral and political decline of the Russian Federation.”

To be sure, “the behavior of the West which yet again has turned out to be incapable of stopping a mass murder doesn’t look all that good either. But the West for all its cowardice and inconsistency has money. Russia for all its decisiveness and cruelty doesn’t.

Syrian rescue workers evacuate a woman and her two children from a building targeted by a government forces air strike on the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo on Nov. 4, 2016 (Image: Philippe Desmazes / AFP)

Syrian rescue workers evacuate a woman and her two children from a building targeted by a government forces air strike on the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo on Nov. 4, 2016 (Image: Philippe Desmazes / AFP)

Consequently, while Trump and the Europeans may lift sanctions, they cannot turn the clock back, they cannot restore oil prices to the height “needed for the survival of a marginal regime,” nor can they “return professionalism to the offices of Russian ministers and other degrade palace flunkies.”

Most importantly in this context, the West “cannot defend Russians from terror. Russia can be surrounded by well-wishers and useful idiots on all sides, but its regime all the same will not survive just as a cancer victim won’t, even when surrounded on all sides by concerned relatives and attentive caregivers.”

The reason is the same in both: the tumor is on the inside; and Putin by his actions in Syria has made certain that it will metastasize in truly horrific and fatal ways.


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Edited by: A. N.

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