A Closer Look Between the Lines of My 'New York Times' Op-Ed
“A Plea for Caution From Russia”; That was the title of my op-ed, published in Thursday’s New York Times. Yes, the op-ed that went right into Barack Obama’s face.
I started the op-ed by talking up the importance of peace. As my Soviet predecessors knew, one should always talk up the importance of peace, because some people love the word so much that they will believe anything you say in the name of peace.
So I praised the United Nations as a bastion of peacemaking since 1945. That’s not true, of course, because the UN did nothing in the face of hundreds of wars, including some started by the USSR and then Russia.
Yet the liberal-left--that is to say, the bulk of the Times readership, in the US and around the world--still clings to the idea of the UN. Why? I think the UN satisfies their need to believe in something. Kind of soft and pathetic, I know, but hey, I don’t make the rules--I just benefit by them.
Look, I believe in something, something important--power. Power for me, for Russia. And there is nothing soft about that--or me, I pride myself on being hard as a rock. Check out the pictures of me and my torso.
Yet when I write in seeming defense of peace and the UN, the liberals swoon. Furthermore, I added this warning:
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
Ah, the League of Nations, the international organization that was the fond dream of Woodrow Wilson. The American Congress rejected the League in 1919, and that was basically the end of it. Times types have been sorry about that ever since. So if I act like I’m sorry, too, they’ll think that I’m on their side. What was that phrase that Lenin used for soft-headed dupes who would unwittingly do his bidding? Ah yes: “Useful idiots.”
I was tempted to twist the knife into Obama further, reminding Times readers that just a few days ago, Obama dismissed the UN as “hocus-pocus.” The truth, of course, is that the UN is hocus-pocus. It’s a fake. But in rhetoric, sometimes less is more--so I didn’t to bring up that Obama quote. Others will point out, on my behalf, that I praised the UN, while Obama has dismissed it. So now, to keep faith with the faith of his political base, Obama will have to go scrambling back and embrace the UN all the more.
The truth is that the UN isn’t much. The only thing that has ever mattered at the UN is the Security Council, which has genuine enforcement power. By contrast, the General Assembly, all 193 countries of it, is just a hot-air and fog machine for blatherers with big expense accounts.
Yet these days, even the Security Council doesn’t really matter anymore, because now it’s permanently gridlocked.
And that’s the way I like it. Since I came to power in 1999, the Security Council has been paralyzed; of the five permanent members, it takes only one of those members to veto. Russia has one vote, and on an important issue, I’ll always vote against the US.
And China, increasingly emboldened against the US, is a second veto-vote. So that leaves the Security Council as no better than the General Assembly; it’s just a temple of blowhards and bureaucrats, scrambling around trying to look important and useful.
In other words, in terms of being unable to do anything, the United Nations is now exactly like the League of Nations. But there’s no need for me to share that assessment with the Times and its readers--it would break their precious little hearts.
And besides, for the moment, I need to play the peacemaker, rallying the world against Obama and America.
Here’s another key part of my op-ed:
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.
As I have said before, Russia has plenty to fear from Islamic radicalism and terrorism. The Chechen jihadis are in my country, and hundreds of millions more of dangerous crazies are on, or near, my southern border. I would love to work with the Americans to truly tamp down the Islamists.
But I can’t get through to the Americans. Instead, the Yankees act as if they want it all; they want to remake the Middle East and the Muslim world--from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Syria--and leave Russia with nothing. Worst of all, they don’t even know what they are doing: When the US invades, the problem gets worse, not better.
Well, my motto is, "We won’t get fooled again!" My immediate predecessors here in Moscow--that vain weakling Gorbachev, and that blubbering drunk Yeltsin--gave up not only the Warsaw Pact countries, but also a big chunk of the USSR itself. In other words, lands that my czarist and Soviet predecessors had fought to gain, over centuries, were simply surrendered without a fight.
The one fig leaf of a concession that Gorbachev and Yeltsin got--namely, that these newly independent states in Europe would not be able to join the Western military alliance, NATO--was soon ungotten. That is, Poland, the Baltic countries, and all the others would exist forever as neutral buffer states between Western Europe and Russia. But then, within just a few years, President Clinton went back on his word, starting to absorb those very same states into NATO. I finally put a stop to further NATO expansion with that splendid little war against Georgia in 2008, but the geopolitical threat to Russia has not eased.
Imagine: NATO forces in Estonia are just 200 kilometers from St. Petersburg! And so that mortal threat to the Motherland will remain, until NATO is gone and the Russian Empire is put back together again. Yes, Peter the Great’s dream is my dream--believe it.
So now, what do the Americans want today? They want to keep their NATO, of course, they want to dominate the Middle East, and they want to tell me how to run my country.
I knew I’d had more than enough of American meddling even before 2012, when Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, honoring some dissident hooligan who had some sort of fatal accident in his Moscow prison cell. Well, not that I’m admitting to a thing, but Magnitsky had it coming. He was a Russian, he should have known--you do what the czar says. Oops! Czar? [Chuckle.] Did I say that?
Yes, the Americans have their ways, and we have our ways. If the Americans want to give us lectures on how we should do things here in Russia--on human rights, “gay” rights, and our wonderfully non-transparent banking system--then I have one word to say back to them, "Nyet!"
Still, in my Times op-ed, I kept the tone high. I worried that an American military strike “could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
You know, balance, as in balance of power. Balancing one interest against another interest, one goal against another goal. That’s statecraft. That’s diplomacy. (Diplomacy is what you do...until you can conquer.) The Americans have tons of diplomats, but they don’t have any sense of diplomacy. What do I mean? Look, diplomacy and negotiation means trading value for value. You want something, I want something--and so we deal.
But the Americans don’t seem to understand that simple reality of realpolitik. They just want to give orders, based on their own self-presumed superiority. Such presumptions are okay if you’re the victor in a war. But the Americans haven’t won a war in a while.
Yet still, they kept acting as if the whole world will just jump when they say “jump,” as if the rest of us are in awe of their ideas about “truth, justice, and the American way.”
Well, here’s my motto: “There’s nothing more dangerous than an all-powerful fool.” And that is America--lumbering around after their victory over us in the Cold War.
More than two decades later, the American live in this bubble illusion that when they declare that something is right or wrong, the world will be inspired to agree. In fact, the world is strongly inspired to disagree.
So Syria has been my opportunity to rally the world against Obama and American hegemony.
And that’s been my ace in the hole on Syria. Obama and Kerry got all high and mighty about nerve gas, and then, after they stopped declaiming, they looked around and finally noticed that the rest of the world wasn’t with them--just the opposite, in fact.
As someone said of Kerry, he pontificates, but does not persuade. And as for the President, you’d think that a former community organizer would understand the importance of organizing! Come to think of it, maybe Obama, back in Chicago, wasn’t so good at that, either.
I continued in my piece, playing on the world’s fears about America as a rogue superpower:
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan "you’re either with us or against us."
Good one, huh? In equating Obama with George W. Bush, I am reminding Obama and his minions that they must avoid the thing they fear most--that is, having the 44th president lumped in with the 43rd president. That’ll scramble ‘em!
And then I added:
A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.
The truth, of course, is that Obama had no choice but to take some kind of deal. Military action was not an option for him, because every time he opened his mouth about strikes, he lost support from US public opinion.
So what happens next? What happens in this new international process with Syria, whatever it is? One Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for Bloomberg View, described what’s going to happen next:
All Assad has to do to forever stave off a punitive strike is to keep promising that he's in the middle of giving up his chemical weapons. (No one, by the way, has addressed the fate of his biological weapons.) This is a process that could go on for months, or even years.
Exactly. Months and years--music to my ears!
And of course, in the process of this inspection process, we Russians will say that you can’t expect dear Bashar al-Assad to cooperate if the Americans are busy trying to regime-change him. So therefore, we must take military action off the table--and one way or another, the Americans will agree. And that’ll give me plenty of time to get more weapons to my man in Damascus!
Just for fun, in the Times piece, I added these words: “My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this.”
Actually, on a personal level, I despise Obama. He insulted me in front of the whole wide world. In August he said that I was like a “bored kid.” Well, that tore it--a personal insult! After that, I was done with this man who had dishonored me. I had a new mission: not just to get even, but to get the better of him. To humiliate and crush him. That’s how we Russians roll.
But of course, unlike Obama, I have the self-discipline not to get personal in public.
As we Russians know, quality revenge takes time. So in the interim, I will sit back and watch the erosion of this supercilious fool, this so-called “American leader.”
I am not a fan of a free press, anywhere, but I will admit that I enjoy reading press criticism--when it’s aimed at others. So I’m having fun watching the Western media turn against Obama.
The last few days have, indeed, made for pleasurable perusing. For example, there’s this from one Julia Ioffe, writing for The New Republic: “There are two clear winners in this slow-motion train wreck, and they are not Obama or Kerry. They are Assad and Putin.” [Chuckle.]
And Lee Smith, writing in The Weekly Standard, had this headline: “Putin Didn't Save Obama, He Beat Him: With the Russian proposal on Syrian chemical weapons, the United States is being escorted out of the Middle East.” [More chuckle.]
And what’s really funny is to watch the Obamans trying to pretend that this was their idea all along. Yes, a few loyalists--more like Stalinists!--are happy to repeat that laughable line; here’s the The Huffington Post: “John Kerry’s Syria Solution In The Works For Months.” [Outright laughter.]
Unfortunately for Obama, some in the once-stoogey press have given up trying to defend their fallen messiah. Buzzfeed summed it up in its headline, “Administration Changes Russian Proposal’s Origin Story: Back-dating a policy.” [Hard laughter.]
In my Times piece, I couldn’t resist adding a good pop on the Presidents’s head in the wake of his Tuesday night speech:
I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is "what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.
In using those words, “American exceptionalism,” Obama belatedly tried to play to the patriotism of the American people. Nothing wrong with that sort of nationalist argument; we Russians, for example, like to say that Moscow is the “Third Rome,” the new citadel of the true Christian faith. But I nailed Obama on the exceptionalism thing, because the rest of the world is getting tired of this endless American chest-beating.
And besides, Obama used to think just the opposite about the specialness of America. Back in 2009, he specifically dismissed the “American exceptionalism” argument. I’m sure that’s still what he really thinks, his poll-driven, focus-grouping, speechwriters notwithstanding.
I will admit that when Obama used those words made famous by Ronald Reagan, “trust, but verify”--a chill went down my spine. Reagan: There was one strong American. He knew how to build his country’s strength, and how to use that strength. And so those were dark days for my country, back in the late 80s. But it was just a momentary chill for me, because Obama is no Reagan. Although perhaps one of Obama’s speechwriters wishes that the 44th president had at least a little bit of the 40th president in him. But no, all’s well--Reagan is safely gone, and so the insertion of one of his lines won’t change the current White House occupant.
Yes, the Obama administration is now in quicksand. Too bad. I’m sure they’re are thinking about putting forth a counter op-ed of their own. But of course, since they don’t have a policy, they won’t be able to get one written. You can’t write what you don’t know.
Look, here’s the reality. The Americans have suffered a Suez Crisis-like humiliation. Most Americans have probably never heard of that crisis, but it broke British and French military power in the Middle East.
Now it’s Uncle Sam’s turn to see his power broken on the remorseless wheel of world history.
Here’s what’s coming next. If the price is right, I am going to sell the Iranians the S-300 air defense system that they have always wanted.
If that deal works, it will then be possible to see the window closing on the ability of the Israelis, or even the Americans, to stop Iran from its nuclear ambition. The installation of that air-defense system will involve a lot of Russian personnel on the ground in Iran. Will the Israelis or Americans want to bomb them? Talk about your World War Three scenario!
Once the air-defense system is in place, it would be possible for Israel or the US to overcome it, but only with a major effort--and neither seems inclined to make that kind of sustained push.
Besides, if we Russians get back into Iran in a big way, we will have people “advising” on all aspects of Iran’s defense. And maybe, as Tehran’s economic ties with Beijing broaden further, many Chinese too will be in Iran. Bottom line: a lot of foreigners will be on the ground in Iran--foreigners that Jerusalem and Washington will be afraid to see hurt in any airstrikes.
So yeah, I will be talking about all this with the Iranians at the next meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which starts on September 13. We’ll be meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgystan. (Yes, Kyrgystan is one of those “Stans” that I want back inside my Russian belly, but no need to get into that now.)
Those dumb Americans. Most of them have never heard of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. But they will. The six member countries of the SCO, plus the five observer states--including Iran and, interestingly enough, Afghanistan--plus three dialogue partners, make up some 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass and have about 40 percent of the world’s population. It’s not a cohesive international group, but then, neither is the UN. However, most of us will agree on one thing: We will be celebrating the impending withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan.
Speaking of that crummy country, I imagine that Hamid Karzai will be interested in making some sort of deal with us soon enough. If he doesn’t kiss the ring, he faces either a not-very-long remaining life in Kabul, or a longer life in exile in Paris or Beverly Hills.
Oh, one last point on the S-300 air defense system. I am not stupid, you know. So I will keep a Russian “back door” to that system once it’s installed in Iran. That is, if Russia ever wants to reach in and turn off the system, it will be able to do so.
In other words, if the Israelis or Americans ever decided that they want to bomb Iran and denuclearize it, they’ll need to come knocking on my door.
I am The Man to see.