In 2008 I endorsed Putin for the American presidency, in jest, of course. Now he is leading America’s president by the nose and directing the anti-terror efforts of France and Germany. No-one could have anticipated Putin’s sudden ascent to global leadership during the past several weeks. Russia is in the position of a a vulture fund, buying the distressed assets of the Western alliance for pennies on the dollar. Faced with an American president who will not fight, and his European allies whose military capacity has shrunk to near insignificance, the Russian Federation seized the helm with the deployment of a mere three dozen war planes and an expeditionary force of 5,000 men. One searches in vain through diplomatic history to find another case where so much was done with so little. As an American, I feel a deep humiliation at this turn of events, assuaged only slightly by Schadenfreude at the even deeper humiliation of America’s foreign policy establishment.
The world runs by different rules than it did just a few weeks ago. Putin has answered the question I asked in September (“Vladimir Putin: Spoiler or Statesman?”). President Obama declared at the Nov. 17 Antalya summit, “From the start, I’ve also welcomed Moscow going after ISIL…We’re going to wait to see whether, in fact, Russia does end up devoting attention to targets that are ISIL targets, and if it does so, then that’s something we welcome.” After this week’s Russian and French airstrikes on ISIS’ stronghold in Raqqa, that is a moot point. It seems like another epoch when Mitt Romney declared that Russia was America’s greatest geopolitical threat. Russia, on the contrary, is pulling America’s chestnuts out of the fire. Obama is utterly feckless; by the time the next American president is sworn in, the world will be a difference place. Ukraine? Never heard of it.