America Suckered by Putin…How the Mighty Have Fallen

Last Friday’s op-ed piece in the New York Times by Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a classic piece of double-speak which demonstrates the unmitigated gall of the man.

After lecturing the United States on the error of its ways in even considering a military attack on Syria for its violation of internationally agreed standards by using chemical weapons on its own population, he goes on to criticize America’s vision of itself as “exceptional.” You may recall that Obama in his address to the nation on this topic said that “the United States’ policy is what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.”

Putin could not resist the temptation to take Obama to task for this and say that it’s dangerous for Americans to see themselves as exceptional and concluded by saying the “God created us equal.”

Now this man who speaks about the equality of humanity is the same head of state who arrests his political opponents, persecutes people based on sexual orientation and put a girl band in a labor camp for signing songs he didn’t like. As US late night television host Jimmy Kimmel said last week “We don’t think we are better than everyone else. We just think that we are better than him, specifically.” Indeed!

But my guess is this is all part of the plan of someone who is turning out to be somewhat of a master strategist for whom the US president is simply no match given his visceral dislike of conflict.

It is, for example, entirely possible to envision a scenario where Putin understands well the weakness of US foreign policy and the vacillating nature of the US President. Seeing that and the vacuum in leadership that this created, perhaps he concocted a scenario whereby he advised his Syrian friend Assad to use chemical weapons (which were probably partially supplied by Russia in the first place) to test Obama’s “red line.” This “planned provocation” would then determine how serious the West really is in punishing Syria for its violation of internationally agreed protocols not to use such weapons.

And it worked. At the end of the day Obama was left alone with his threat with only the French somewhat supportive and with no other major power backing him as well as without a UN resolution in support of military action. Then charging in from the “end zone” as it were, comes Putin on his white horse ready to save the world by brokering a deal with Assad for Syria to give up its chemical weapons so as not to be attacked, thus making Putin the new keeper of world peace.

No doubt next year we will see him in a tuxedo on stage in Stockholm being presented with the Nobel Peace prize by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

The most gifted fiction writer could not have devised a cleverer plot. But as fiction it would have been just that, a romp through fantasy that no one would ever believe. Sadly, for those of us living today, the lessons are clear. A trap was set for the US president and he walked right into it believing, as he has from the day he first took office, that you can reason with everyone and come to an equitable solution. Has history taught him nothing?

Hopefully, by whatever means, Putin has saved the world from this latest threat of Armageddon. But the level of respect for the US as the leader of the western world has dropped yet another notch. As for those of us who have chosen to live in Israel, there are clear lessons to be learned as well from this fiasco. Let’s hope we have learned them well.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.