In weeks there has been a round of talk that Putin has stepped into the driver’s seat in the Middle East. It must have touched a nerve because the old guard establishment Republicans, joined at the hip by the Left, are taking issue with that assertion. In one article pointing out all the ways Russia is not, nor has been, in the driver’s seat, they have countered that assertion with a deluge of why it is not so.
Only problem is, how do their examples hold up and what does the current situation portend for the future? I grant that no one knows for sure who’s up and who’s down, or who’s in and who’s out given the fluid circumstances in the Middle East at present. That is the point. Old paradigms are interesting, but how predictable are they for the future?
Here’s a good summary from National Interest of their argument, starting with a tiny admission, why Putin is not ‘large and in charge’. Try to follow their shuck and jive.
“It may well be that the United States’ influence is declining in the region, though it’s more likely that it is changing rather than disappearing completely. Where the United States might be losing influence, the Russians are not replacing it: no state that doesn’t already lean on the Russians is turning to Moscow for help. Nobody else in the region is asking for Russian money, arms, or diplomatic support.
Just makes me want to break into song: “lean on me…” Might I offer that a caveat of reason? They know that Russian help and influence comes with strings. But for someone who invaded Afghanistan only decades ago, Russia rebounded some influence in the region. It runs interference for Iran fairly well, and defense for Syria. It wisely stood back on Egypt — who says loss is not gain?
This isn’t to say that the Soviet Union or Russia has never mattered. Its threat against Britain, France, and Israel in 1956 prompted Dwight Eisenhower to force the three to withdraw from Egypt after the Sinai Campaign. Its presence at international conferences on the Arab-Israeli conflict has sometimes (though not always) been seen as contributing international legitimacy to the effort. Moscow’s decision to let the U.S. attack Iraq in 1991 avoided what could have been a drawn-out struggle that would have left Iraq in Kuwait for much longer. And, of course, Moscow’s veto at the Security Council has prevented any substantive UN action on the Syrian civil war.”
Oh yes, the ever lovin’ power of the minority — everywhere except here in the US.
That’s right, if you thought that seems to argue against itself you’d be correct. (IMO) So what does that mean? They have a veto and expressively use it. It’s a little like the minority was to George Bush, a perpetual critic. (not to say he was always right) And they did have some affect on him.
But it is increasingly clear what is really gaining power in the Mid East vacuum, other than Putin, are the radical jihadists. Of course, in the end, that wouldn’t matter so much to Vlad, especially if it agitates the west. He’s content with the option to sell Syria or anyone else what they want. Putin is much the opportunist the way the Islamists are. The so-called dominant influence in the region is becoming more of an evolving footnote.