Germany

Vladimir Putin Is Playing The West For A Fool

The failure of the Western allies to weigh on the situation in Syria is a humanitarian disaster. It's also a sign for Putin that he can also have his way elsewhere.

Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin on Sept. 4
Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin on Sept. 4
Richard Herzinger

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Talks between the U.S. and Russia are again supposed to lead to a ceasefire in Syria, or at the very least a temporary pause in the horrendous bombardments of Aleppo by the Assad regime's Air Force and its powerful protector, Russia.

Previous ceasefires, however, have always been violated by Moscow and Damascus, with agreement giving way to even more brutal bombing of civilians.

It is quite obvious that the Kremlin views these talks as mere diversionary tactics to fob off the West while pursuing its goal with lethal steadfastness. The goal is not to find a peaceful solution for Syria but to utterly destroy the Syrian opposition and with it, American and Western influence within the country and the entire region.

Wholesale slaughter

There is nothing to indicate that anything has changed vis a via Russia's intentions, along with those of its ally Iran, whose militias and mercenary troops fight side-by-side with Assad's troops on the ground against Syria's Sunni population.

The dimensions of warfare orchestrated by the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis have taken on that of genocide. The Russian airstrikes alone, which recently included the targeted use of anti-bunker bombs against underground hospitals, killed more civilians than the ISIS terror militias have. And yet the West is failing still to take serious action to stop the massacres, which are among the worst committed since World War II.

Although the U.S. broke off negotiations with Russia in early October after finally realizing that Moscow would never honor the agreements made, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has, once again, agreed to peace talks. In the meantime, nothing has changed.

Even as the sides were meeting last Saturday, airstrikes on Aleppo continued unabated. Putin and Assad have reinforced their military position since the last broken ceasefire agreement. So why should they now back down voluntarily? The U.S., after all, has no means of coercing them.

More bark, still no bite

Washington and its allies may have sharpened their tone — French President François Hollande, for example, recently branded Russia"s actions in Syria as war crimes and threatened to call upon the International Criminal Court in The Hague — but they haven't taken any concrete action against Moscow. Nor has President Obama, despite being advised to by some in his own administration, agreed to provide Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles or order strikes on the strongholds of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The governments and people of the West have yet to grasp the severity of the situation and realize what is really at stake in Syria. Not only morally speaking, but also in terms of global political consequences that a capitulation to Russia's politics of violence could mean.

The Kremlin sees itself as being in an undeclared war against the U.S. and its main allies. And it's using Syria as a testing grounds to gauge how far it can go in its mobilization against the West. The Putin regime is also demonstrating, yet again, that international law and rules do not apply to the Motherland. The same goes for its treatment of Ukraine, where Russian troops are occupying territory in a independent European state with zero regard for the Minsk agreement.

Actions of armament, such as positioning Iskander rockets in Kaliningrad, which threaten Poland and the Baltic States, as well as the cyber warfare undertaken to destabilize the institutions of U.S. democracy are unambiguous warning signs announcing the determination of the Kremlin to seek open confrontation with the West.

Were he to be elected president, Donald Trump would be a perfect tool for Russia's plan to destabilize the West's leading liberal democracies. But even if he loses, Trump's disastrous election campaign alone has opened considerable rifts within American society that won't be easy to bridge.

Feigned neutrality

Germany, for its part, applies the preferred strategy of whitewashing the imminent threat to freedom. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn't dare verbally admonish Russia the way France and Britain have done.

There has, recently, been more talk of possible sanctions against Russia within the circles close to Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the Putin apologists and general soothers continue to warn against "demonizing" Russia or complicating "dialogue" with Moscow through improper critique.

There is also a growing tendency to view the U.S. and Russia as equally responsible for the Syrian catastrophe, and to argue that the contrast between Russia and the West isn't as stark as it was during the Cold War. As if the democratic states of law and order were indistinguishable from Russia's Putinism, an authoritarian state that is governed by its intelligence services and the mafia!

On the streets of Germany, mass demonstrations against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement are threatening to undermine the proposed trade deals and jeopardize Europe's economic future in the process.

Defeating these international accords would be a huge success for the Kremlin's subversive tactics, which, in the finest Soviet tradition, seek to sever Europe's ties with America.

Russia has long seen Germany as the key to hegemony on the continent, which is why the Kremlin continues to use its influence over people in the German political, economic and publishing spheres to make its hard tactics palatable to the people as a whole. But in the end, Germany's soft approach won't appease Russia, but will only encourage more aggressive tactics.

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Expressing herself

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BUCARAMANGA — It may not be remembered alongside same-sex marriage or racial justice, but count it as another small (and shiny) victory in the battle for civil rights: an 18-year-old Colombian student whose hair is dyed a neon shade of blue has secured the right to participate in her high school graduation, despite the school's attempt to ban her from the ceremony because of the color of her hair.

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