“The first rule of leadership; everything is your fault”
Vladimir Putin is not the master strategist some make him out to be. He’s a gambler and also a paper tiger. https://t.co/I8ImqeELtF
— Mehmet Yolcu (@yolcumeh) November 26, 2015
Vladimir Putin is learning a thing or two about how difficult it is to be a leader on the world stage. Putin thought he could waltz into Syria and kick some ass for his ally Bashar al Assad. Instead, he now faces a confusing list of friends, enemies, and the rest of us. Syria is teaching Vladimir Putin a lesson in leadership. But will he learn anything?
And Syria is also a dangerous playground in which to learn what it takes to be a world leader. ISIS, the Kurds, Turkmen, and Syrian freedom fighters, all crammed into a country that is crammed into the Levant. Two religious sects at war with each other. The surrounding nations destabilized by refugees, and a caliphate that refuses to acknowledge the borders set by Europeans one hundred years ago. This is the mess into which Barack Obama refuses to enter. The mess Putin thought he could control. Now Vladimir Putin has a downed Russian jet, courtesy of Turkey, a nation he did not think would do such a thing.
The conflict in Syria is not Clint-Eastwood-Easy. You just don’t go in and kick ass. Every action has layers of consequences. We hope Vladimir Putin just learned that lesson, but we are not sure.
Now that Vladimir Putin is firmly in the grasp of this conflict that he was sure he himself could take firm control of, the question becomes, how he can extricate himself and save face? Alone, this is not possible, but with the help of NATO, it can be done. But will NATO do such a thing? Is Francois Hollande our knight in shining armor? Can he sooth the Russian Bear?
Bruised from the spat of Eastern Ukraine, that remains to be seen. Putin cannot back down on his demand that al Assad stay in power, and Syria will remain as it is unless al Assad leaves. Putin has very little room to wiggle.
And there is the problem of Putin himself. He is not irrational, but he is self-deluded. He drank his own Kool-Aid, and it tasted so good, he believes he can operate on the world stage. There is nothing more dangerous than a man who believes in himself. Before Putin does something stupid, we need to walk this back, and give everyone an out. Escalation is now a dangerous possibility. The ego of Vladimir Putin might do something as dangerous as Turkey just did.