With his article in The New York Times, the Russian president is getting into a discussion that he would never allow in Russia. He is perfidiously trying to rouse Iraq War trauma with it.
Seen long-term, dictators and autocrats are a dying breed. Therefore many of those still existing have recognized that they must stand together – look at Russia, China, Iran and Syria. And they must be much cleverer than before.
Vladimir Putin embodies this type of modern autocrat who, with regard to his style and urbanity, has nothing in common with the old Soviet leaders.
Putin’s Half-truths and Distortions
Putin understands the importance of involving himself in the debates of democratic societies; he has now proven this with an opinion piece in The New York Times, with which he hopes to influence the American debate about Syria in case the diplomatic path should fail.
Putin is attacking Obama on his home turf and trying to undermine the president's efforts to convince the people and Congress of the necessity for punitive action against Syria. That is by all means legitimate.
However, Putin operates with distortions, half-truths and also bald-faced lies. At the same time he tries in an ingenious way to rouse Iraq War trauma and use American war-weariness to influence Congress' decisions in favor of the interests of Russia and Assad.
Open debate is the strength of democratic societies because it forces governments to justify their positions, and it makes wrong decisions less probable by weighing pros and cons.
The Open Flank of Democracy
At the same time, this is a disadvantage in the international power game. Democracies are much more readable and open to influence by their opponents than autocracies, where debates are conducted in back rooms. And, as opposed to the Putins in this world, their politicians can only allow themselves to act against the will of their citizens to a limited degree.
In America, Putin is getting into a debate that he would never permit in Russia. As a democrat, one can only rely on his manipulative argumentation not having the desired effect.