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The New Republic: What Really Scares Vladmir Putin the Most

Author: Julia Ioffe
September 29, 2013


"[Putin's] worldview is that the world is in such a chaotic, incomprehensible state, that all attempts to influence it with direct action are counterproductive and only bring the opposite of the intended result,' says Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs, who is seen as a good decoder of the Kremlin's thinking. Furthermore, the trope of U.S. obligation to do this or enforce that is more than galling to Putin, Lukyanov says. It is incomprehensible."

When Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced their deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons, Bashar Al Assad knew exactly what the deal meant—a lifeline—and whom to thank for it. "It's a victory for Syria achieved thanks to our Russian friends," said one Syrian minister.

But as the conflict unfolded—as Moscow staunchly denied that Assad had gassed his own subjects; as it moved its war ships into the Mediterranean; and as it finally stepped in to fill the void left by President Obama's waffling—Washington struggled to decode what, exactly, those Russian friends were after. Was it about keeping a good client of Russian arms manufacturers? Was it about protecting its base in Tartus, the only Russian naval installation in the Mediterranean? Was it nothing more than a desire to stick it to Uncle Sam?

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