. . . thanks in large part to diplomatic bungling by the Obama administration over Syria. Ariel Cohen points out that the ramifications of the administration’s errors go far beyond what will happen in Syria:
In what appears as yet another strategic blunder, Obama even elected to forego a binding UN Security Council resolution on Syrian disarmament under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for enforcement, while Putin may hit the geopolitical jackpot.
If the disarmament initiative succeeds, Obama will “owe” Putin. America will be enticed to forget quickly the damage caused by the NSA and CIA defector Edward Snowden, who received asylum in Russia. America will remain mum as a Russian court has sentenced anticorruption crusader and whistleblower Alexei Navalny. Moscow is rife with rumors about preparations for the third trial of jailed oil tycoon and political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It is equally unlikely that Russia’s ambitious plans to expand the Eurasian Union to include Armenia and Ukraine into the Customs Union will meet a vigorous U.S. response.
Obama may not realize that Putin, a former KGB recruiting officer, seems to have played him like a violin. Putin has demonstrated that he is capable of stopping the world’s only superpower from using force—making him “the go to” man, to whom many on the U.S. blacklist will run to seek protection.
Putin will also have demonstrated that Russia, despite being seven times smaller than the U.S. economically, and weaker militarily, is capable of gaining impressive geopolitical results even when dealt a poor hand. As the military operation against Assad is postponed, Putin has increased the chances of the pro-Iranian regime’s survival, and possibly ensured the continued presence of a modest Russian naval facility in Tartus.
Moscow also has a growing interest in a Shia strategic belt extending from Lebanon via Syria and Iraq to Iran, as it prevents Sunni radicals from flooding into the North Caucasus and Central Asia—Russia’s soft underbelly.
Moscow also sent a signal that a U.S. military operation against the Iranian nuclear program may not happen—without the UN Security Council—i.e., the Kremlin’s—sanction. And that sanction will not be forthcoming.
Not bad for a week’s work.
Recall (again) that one of the reasons given for re-electing the president in 2012 was that he is supposedly a much better geopolitical chess player than that bumbler, Mitt Romney, who had the effrontery to tell us that Russia’s interests don’t exactly line up with our own. How is that argument looking now?