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Confession prompted by loneliness

Medvedev complains about the West’s boycott
25 November, 18:23

President Vladimir Putin met with the military. The key event was the Russian leader’s visit to the National Defense Command Center on Frunzenskaya Naberezhnaya St. in Moscow, formally to oversee a Russian combat operation against ISIS. The event was broadcast live by the federal channels.

Army generals provided online running commentary, each trying to outdo the next, reporting significant manpower and materiel involved in a mission aimed at destroying ISIS. Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu informed the Commander-in-Chief that, in addition to tactical aircraft operating from Himym airfield in Syria, there were TU-160 and TU-95MC missile carriers, as well as TU-22M3 long-range bombers from the Russian air bases in Engels and Mozdok, taking part in the operation against the Islamists.

All this military prattling was meant to show the masses that each contrail left by a formidable Russian warplane was another manifestation of the quiet might of Mother-Russia, considering that the masses were being somewhat restless after the charter jet crash in Egypt.

Even after Cairo had reluctantly admitted an act of terrorism, Moscow stubbornly reiterated its story. Then all talk about a breakdown stopped somehow, but the Kremlin rejected the explosion scenario. And then Vladimir Putin, looking pale, told the security, interior, and defense ministers that it was actually an act of terrorism. Once again Moscow said one thing yesterday and then an altogether different thing the next day. Now they discussed the explosion on board the charter jet as something they had long known. What better illustration for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four?

First, they kept the explosion scenario on ice for as long as they absolutely could while putting the propaganda machine in full gear to distract the man in the street from tracing the causal link between the explosion and the Syrian adventure. Besides, what had happened had to be somehow digested in the Moscow corridors of power.

Second, flying to Antalya without recognizing the fact that what had happened on board of that charter jet was an act of terrorism, knowing that all G20 leaders had recognized the fact, would be very embarrassing. Russia’s general public had been kept in the dark, but the topic had been discussed with the world political leaders. Now was the time to start making friends, even allies if the situation allowed. If Putin did not admit an act of terrorism, no one would even talk to him. Also, having himself on the television screen, talking to Western political leaders, was of the utmost importance. He would then use this as proof that the diplomatic siege of Russia had been broken through – anyway, that’s what the Russian TV audiences would see.

Third, Moscow believed that the Paris attacks couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time. Now the West would have to admit that they were in the same boat with Russia and take Russia’s involvement in the anti-ISIS operation for granted. Russia would be a major player of that antiterrorist coalition game. Putin flew to Antalya in precisely that frame of mind. The long-sought objective seemed within arm’s reach. All he had to do was consolidate success, even if it had come his way by pure chance.

Reality proved a nasty cold shower. There was no diplomatic breakthrough. Certain subjects were discussed, but to little avail, so far as his plans were concerned. No one wanted to recognize Russia as an ally in the war against ISIS. Yes, a degree of cooperation was possible, but only in regard to technical problems. And there was his worst pain in the neck, Ukraine. He couldn’t shrug it off. What had been happening or would happen in Syria would never overshadow the Donbas adventure. There would be no trade-off. In fact, no one [in the West] was prepared to even discuss the possibility. Sanctions would be lifted only after carrying out the Minsk Agreements. Putin took a blank shot at Syria.

The Kremlin then decided to show good will and proposed to restructure Ukraine’s debt – a subject over which so many diplomatic horns had been locked and lances broken. Same old story. As in the case with the plane crash, they absolutely refused to discuss the topic yesterday, then were prepared and willing to discuss it the next day. They didn’t do so for the sake of Ukraine. They conveyed a message to the West: if you treat us the right way, we might be more complaisant.

Moscow has failed to come to terms with the West, as evidenced by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s statement during the APEC CEO summit in Manila. He said, sarcastically, that yes, ISIS is evil, but it is not absolute for the West, to the extent that its destruction warrants cooperation with Russia; the West does not like Assad and sympathizes with Ukraine while Russia appears to be acting the other way around, and so the West declares a boycott against Russia; the West will not make friends with Russia and will isolate Russia…

So much for the diplomatic breakthrough. According to the newspaper Kommersant, Vladimir Putin appeared to be lost in thought during his visit to the National Defense Command Center. He was not his usual sociable self; he had been that way since the early morning briefing when he said that the initiators and perpetrators of the act of terrorism would be detected and destroyed “anywhere on the planet.” The head of state didn’t even look interested in war games using the latest military technologies. Apparently the situation was so bad the man could no longer keep his usual poise.

Small wonder. Syria. The consequences of the adventure were just starting to show. The worst was still to come.



Karmo TUUR, political analyst, University of Tartu, Estonia:

“Roughly speaking, Russia wants to climb on top of the negotiating table wearing soldier’s boots and then say see, you won’t pull it off without us. And the impression is that things are happening precisely that way. Of course, this has more to do with conspiracy theories. There is a theory that the tragic events in Egypt and France are acts of revenge for the Mistrals. There is no way to prove or disprove this theory. The fact remains that Russia used the right time to take a seat at the negotiating table. Cynically, it elbowed its way into a fight to show the world that they couldn’t do without Russia.

“Russia can point a finger at the West and say, ‘See, they have no values. If they have to, they’ll cut a deal with anyone.’ Russia will then feel even more confident. It will dictate its terms relying on brute force.”


Atis KLIMOVICS, journalist, Latvia:

“Moscow may well be taking advantage of the current situation. The refugee crisis is playing into Moscow’s hands. Moscow is using Syria to strengthen its position, and we’ll shortly see to what extent. Putin wants to be a player on the world field. Along with Russia’s rocket strikes in Syria, refugee crisis, and Paris attacks, we must not forget about Ukraine. Europe must keep its vigil.”


Andrzej SZEPTYCKI, analyst, Institute of International Relations, Warsaw University:

“Russia is clearly trying to use the Paris attacks to reset its relationships with the West. It also wants to become an important partner of the West in this phase of war against terrorism. Russia is taking advantage of the Paris attacks and the Russian jet crash in Egypt to the same end. If admitted to the antiterrorist coalition, Russia will pose a threat to Central – and especially Eastern – Europe. The Ukraine issue must be center stage in resetting the relationships between Russia and the world. The annexation of Crimea and the war in the east of Ukraine must never be forgotten.”

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