Putin Defies the West

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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers an annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow, on December 12, 2013.(Photo: AFP / Ria-Novosti - Mikhail Metzel).

By: Sami Kleib

Published Friday, December 13, 2013

Since he became president on the eve of the current millennium, former KGB officer Vladimir Putin has been stubbornly shaking up the one-sided international order dominated by Washington and its Western allies – and in most cases, succeeding at it.

In cooperation with China, Russia became increasingly more assertive on the UN Security Council, and has not shied away from vetoing resolutions they don’t find agreeable. The two powers also entered into a global alliance with other major emerging economies to form what is known as the BRICS countries, even proposing the establishment of an international fund and the replacement of the US dollar with an alternative global currency.

Putin entered the Middle East by way of Syria and Iran, knowing full well that President Bashar al-Assad’s survival in the face of an international assault on his rule would only strengthen Moscow in the region. From the beginning, Putin wisely did not to commit his country to the person of Assad, but to the Syrian nation as a whole, insisting on a diplomatic solution to the conflict while supporting the regime with weapons and experts.

In the past week, he sent his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Tehran to discuss expanding ties with the Islamic Republic, to be followed soon with Iraq. At the same time, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were meeting in Kuwait, trying their best to paper over deepening schisms within the alliance over a host of issues, from their stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood to forming a military union, to confronting Tehran’s growing power.

Putin may agree with the West on preventing Iran from possessing a nuclear bomb, the importance of Israel’s security, the need to fight terrorism, and the spread of Islamism. However, tensions on many issues remain. Today, for example, Washington is trying to find a role for itself in the developing crisis in Ukraine – a move that will surely provoke Moscow.

The world is changing: Putin knows well that Washington is reluctant to rush into any military adventures, which makes Obama more amenable to compromise. The Russian president is convinced that he has succeeded in imposing new conditions that will eventually see the end of a unipolar world.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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