The US has just failed to garner support for another jolly into the Middle East, and I find myself, quite oddly, praising Russian President and all-round action man, Vladimir Putin. Why, you might ask, would I praise such a man? The answer is quite simple. Putin has stood-up to the United States. He has done that which only a handful of small, radical states have dared to do in the recent past. In doing so, he just might have redressed the international balance of power.
Vladimir Putin is the new thorn in the side of Barack Obama and through this, the United States. Like so many of the men who have occupied the Kremlin in years gone by, Putin is determined to prevent unilateral action by the United States.
On first glance, it would be easy to dismiss Putin’s actions as entirely self-motivated, valuing Russia’s interests over holding individuals to account for crimes against humanity. I do not seek to praise his motivations. If I knew them in any certain terms, I would more than likely find them to be utterly abhorrent and nothing more than criminal. Instead, I want to praise the ‘Putin effect’.
On the 11 September, Putin wrote a letter. A simple thing in normal circumstances, but this letter was a little different. The recipient was not the leaders in Washington, or the diplomats at the United Nations. No, this was a letter to the people of the United States. In his own words, free from the skew of modern journalism, Putin put forth his argument to the American people in simple and impassioned terms.
With jabs at the US government like “The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus” and “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law”, Putin circumvented international convention and went straight of the jugular of the American government. The war-tired US population needs little motivation to object to yet more conflict in the Middle East, and Putin knows this.
His argument was striking and convincing. He stated that the US is not the police force of the world. Granted, it is an influential player, yet it remains subordinate to the United Nations and cannot pick and choose when to adhere to the rules of the UN. Putin has proven that the US is not special. It is not the exemption to the rule, however much it is convinced of the fact.
The old order of alliance-building and seeking international support has been turned on its head. It would be easy to dismiss this as a blip on the radar, but to think that way would be defeatist. We must see this as the setting in motion of the wheels of change: a rebirth for the United Nations and an empowerment of its constituent members – however big or small.
For too long, the US has sat at the top of the table, issuing direction to the rest of the world. Rarely has a state been willing to stand up to the US and say ‘no’, or more precisely ‘nyeht’. Diplomacy has won. The US is back peddling. In the David and Goliath-esque battle of international politics, David has come out on top. With a well-placed stone to the forehead, Vladimir Putin has defeated the international colossus that is, or just maybe was, the United States.