Op-ed: Russian President Putin understands what the free world does not: Whoever won’t fight jihad outside his home will be forced to fight it inside his home.
US President Barack Obama delivered an impressive speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. He knows how to talk. Military power alone will not solve the problem in Syria, he said, and presented a vision of peace and comradeship.
He asked Iran nicely not to shout “Death to America,” because it won’t bring them jobs, and expressed his hope that those who hope for its extinction will maintain the nuclear agreement and turn the world into a safer place. Just like that. There is no doubt that he is a believer.
While Obama talks,Vladimir Putin acts. After the Crimean Peninsula and Ukraine, Russia has reached Syria. The Russian president is creating an axis which includes Iran, the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah, and the free world is standing by. In fact, there are even signs of support for Putin. He may succeed in doing to the Islamic State organization what the free world is not even dreaming of doing.
Russia is a midget compared to the United States. The former world power’s national product is $2.1 trillion, compared to Britain’s 2.6 and 17.4 in the US. But power means nothing when there is no interest in using it.
While Obama talks, Putin acts (Photo: EPA)
This isn’t just about military intervention. When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a clear friend of the US, faced a domestic crisis, Obama actually rushed to support the regime’s opponents. In the conflict between the current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Obama stood mainly by the “brothers,” in the name of democracy of course. The message to the leaders of the Third World in general and to the Arab world in particular was clear: Don’t expect America’s support.
Putin is positioning himself in this place in order to signal the opposite to the Third World: I support my allies, no matter what they do. Pedantries of democracy and human rights are appropriate for the European Union and the American administration. I have interests.
In other words, a little power being used is worth much more than a lot of power which no one plans to do anything with. What is the neighborhood bully worth if he adopts the role of the neighborhood fool?
The American considerations are understandable. After the entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has no interest in entering the Syrian quagmire. Putin is taking advantage of the void, and he has long-term aspirations. The support for Syria doesn’t stem from his love of Assad but because some of Russia’s republics, including Rajasthan and Chechnya, provide fighters to ISIS.
Putin understands what the free world is failing to understand: Whoever won’t fight jihad outside his home will be forced to fight it inside his home. He is not going to wait for them. He is going out to face them.
Will Russia succeed where the US failed? Only time will tell. Putin is sending all-embracing signals. The saga in Ukraine is not over yet, and the Baltic countries are in a state of fear. They don’t want to be annexed and be subject to Russian influence. Former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has already warned that Russia may attack there.
It’s a nightmare for the European Union, which is incapable of uniting even in light of the refugee crisis. This weakness may encourage Putin.
As far as Israel is concerned, Iran and ISIS are two sides of the same coin, two equally bad options. So the Russian intervention raises questions. As long as Putin is at the center of the axis, most of the effort will be directed at ISIS. But as far as Iran and Hezbollah are concerned, the obsession was and remains Israel. It would be better if peace and serenity and coexistence prevail in Iraq and Syria, but utopias are a matter for the White House. For now, the war is not ending, all those involved are wearing themselves out, and the Russian power injection will only add fuel to the fire.
It is unclear if the “Putin axis” will succeed in overpowering jihad in the long run. It is clear that Putin has clarified to the world’s leaders that there is another strong leader around, and his name is not Obama.