Putin and the Art of the Deal

What’s the Russian withdrawal from Syria all about?

While the US media has focused its attention on such pressing matters as valorizing a gang of thugs intent on shutting down peaceful political rallies, and granting fawning interviews to assailants of disfavored presidential candidates, the mess we have made of much of the rest of the world continues to manifest itself.

In Kosovo, which – if you recall – Bill Clinton “liberated” during his warlike reign, antigovernment demonstrators have firebombed the presidential palace, and metal detectors have been installed in the parliament building – because legislators keep bringing in tear gas canisters which they set off at will.

In Ukraine, the US-backed regime is in chaos, the government is collapsing, corruption is pandemic, and the ruthless war waged by the Kiev coup leaders continues to erupt sporadically. Meanwhile, Dutch Euro-skeptics are waging an increasingly successful campaign to keep the former Soviet republic out of the EU. Washington’s solution? Dispense with the pretense that Ukraine is an independent state, and formalize the country’s true status as a US/EU colony by installing an American as Prime Minister.

In Libya, another site of America’s imperial beneficence – where Hillary Clinton claims “we didn’t lose a single person”! – the jihadists we empowered are spilling over into Tunisia while the weapons “liberated” from Gaddafi’s arsenals are fueling Islamist insurgencies throughout Africa as well as in Syria.

Speaking of Syria, the Russians have announced they are withdrawing the bulk of their forces on the eve of the renewed Geneva negotiations. Unlike in the US, where any hint that we might declare victory and get out is perceived as a sign of “weakness” that would bring a collapsing “world order” down on our heads, in Putin’s Russia foreign policy is directed by realists who refuse to be manipulated by their allies and realize that their power has limits.

Unburdened by the conceit that the fate of the world depends on asserting his nation’s role as an international policeman, Putin is free to cannily pursue Russia’s real interests. Those interests were served by shoring up  Assad’s regime, which was crumbling under a sustained assault from the US and its Islamist allies in Riyadh and Ankara (with the Israelis cheerleading from the sidelines). In the meantime, the head-chopping jihadists of al-Nusra and its spin-offs – covertly supported by the Saudis and Turkey – have been declared terrorist outfits by the United Nations, and negotiations are underway in Geneva while the ceasefire continues to hold (albeit somewhat shakily).

It must be time for another false flag “chemical attack” to be blamed on the Assad forces – but, hey, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The prospect that peace might break out in Syria has our warmongers down in the dumps. Sen. John McCain moaned that the Russkies “have changed the military facts on the ground and created the terms for a political settlement more favorable to their interests. [The] likely result is that the Syrian conflict will grind on, ISIL will grow stronger, and the refugees will keep coming.”

It doesn’t look like the Syrian rebels agree with their champion – but then again, they actually live in Syria, and so their perspective is quite different. As for the refugees: since most of the those pouring into Europe are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and other theaters of devastation that people like McCain brought to their current state, it is likely that they will indeed keep coming. But what will not happen – quite yet – is the destruction of non-Islamist communities in Syria, notably Alawaites and Christians, who – if it were up to McCain & Co. – would have long since been eliminated from the face of the earth.

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