Why Putin Confounds US Media

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by Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture:

In the space of a week, Russian President Vladimir Putin went from descriptions in the US media as “an influential international statesman” to reiteration of hackneyed claims of “KGB spy” who is somehow in cahoots with President Trump. 

That’s a pretty impressive versatile range of roles, according to the US media – and all just in the space of a few days. 

The wild mood swing says more about the US media, than it does about Putin’s alleged character. 

When the Russian leader flew into Syria last week to announce the end of military operations there, after a successful two-year campaign to defeat a Western-backed insurgency, top US media outlets seemed to acknowledge Putin’s newfound global authority. 

On the same day last week, Monday, Putin also flew from Syria to Egypt where he was greeted by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and then later to Turkey to hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Bloomberg News reported that Putin was on a “victory lap”, while the New York Times in its Daily Briefing said the Russian leader’s “whirlwind tour of Syria, Egypt and Turkey underscored his country’s expansive role and America’s diminishing influence in the Middle East.” 

A rather candid assessment in favor of the Russian leader, it would seem, being told by major US media. 

The fact that Putin was warmly received by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, followed by al-Sisi and Erdogan – all of whom have been deeply at odds over regional politics – shows how much respect the Russian leader actually commands. That, in turn, is a reflection of how successful Russia’s military intervention in Syria has been – despite the recent churlish quibbles from the US and French governments that terrorism in Syria has not been vanquished. 

The Washington Post in its Today’s Worldview briefing starkly declared: “Putin is outplaying Trump in the Middle East”. 

It went on to say: “While President Trump has sparked outrage across the region [over his Jerusalem policy], Putin played the role of sober and dependable partner… all in all an influential international statesman”.

Again, this praise for Putin in major US media and his outshining an American president, seems extraordinary. 

Admittedly, those news outlets cited above are inclined to undermine Donald Trump for domestic political reasons, and so their seeming praise of Putin’s international leadership is partly aimed as a backhanded criticism of Trump. 

Nevertheless, their acknowledgement of Putin’s increased global authority would seem to be also a genuine reflection of objective reality.

When the Russian leader took the decision to send military forces into Syria’s war in October 2015, there were all sorts of predictions back then that it would be a failure. Trump’s White House predecessor Barack Obama predicted that Putin would get stuck in a quagmire, and there were also gleeful American predictions of another Afghanistan for Russia. 

On the contrary, two years on, Putin’s military intervention in Syria has been spectacularly vindicated. 

The foreign-backed insurgency that instrumented a US-led covert war for regime change has been defeated. 

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