Putin to America: ‘Remember Your Place’

As the complex and amorphous Syria debate continues to draw the attention of the international community, one political move—perhaps the boldest played thus far—comes not in the form of unilateral force or tactically positioned battleships but instead as an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Vladimir Putin’s direct message to the American people arrived Thursday at almost two million doorsteps and has since been read and further disseminated via the Internet to the world.

Shocked, outraged, and incredulous, much of the American media has been quick to disavow this piece as a political miscalculation. Americans, argue many political commentators, have a tendency to band together in support of their executive at the first hint of an “America vs. the world” diplomatic power struggle. If Putin meant to further corrode Obama’s domestic influence, he has probably succeeded in doing just the opposite. Republicans and Democrats may loathe to agree on anything, but no official from either party will go so far as to agree with the Russian strongman. An MSNBC commentator even argued Friday that Putin must have written and published this piece completely of his own volition because Russian diplomats would otherwise have foreseen the work’s negative potential and would have urged against its publication.

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin walk and talk in Northern Ireland.

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin walk and talk in Northern Ireland.

This view, however, implies that the American people would be the only readers of this opinion, which has been shown in the past few days to be far from true. By this point, hundreds of millions have either read or heard about Putin’s disparaging remarks towards United States’ diplomacy.  Memories of the Iraq War and Afghan “intervention” are in close to the surface not only in the minds of Americans, but also within the international community, and the anti-war globalist maxims laid out by Putin in his address to the American people must have struck many internationals as a long overdue reprimand.

As well as cite its overreach, many politicians have decried Putin’s article as a confrontational move, and, moreover, as an immensely hypocritical critique. It was only a few months ago, after all, that all “homosexual propaganda” was officially banned by the increasingly illiberal Russian state. US commentators ask how Putin, a man who is on record saying that the fall of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical disaster in Russian history, could possibly lecture the American people on the basic tenets of internationalism. Experts wonder what motivation, other than of undermining Obama and America’s world standing, Putin would have to craft such a simultaneously bombastic and insincere piece.

Hypocritical as the Op-Ed may be, it is wrong to suppose that the international community, and indeed the American people—the vast majority of whom have probably not read the message—will take the same informed position. Regardless of Putin’s track record, many of his points are hard —and in some cases, impossible—to refute. Popular responses to the piece have ranged from irate bloggers happy to revitalize the Cold War “them against us” mentality to highly detailed responses.

In the coming weeks and months, America’s international credibility will be on the line, as will be Putin’s ability to influence world affairs. A solution to the intricate web of issues surrounding Syria eludes the brightest minds of the international community and leaves an open course of action for either Obama or Putin. Either man (or either nation) could secure the title of international leader on this issue. As thousands continue to fight, die, and flee from the war-torn Syrian nation, the globe can only hope that such a solution comes sooner rather than later.

— Mac Zech, World News Editor

Posted by on September 19, 2013. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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