Staunton, September 3 – Vladimir Putin’s increasing public activity in recent days and especially his photo session with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are part and parcel of the Kremlin leader’s effort to improve his international image and set the stage for what he hopes will be a new deal with the West, according to Andrey Piontkovsky.
In a comment to Ukraine’s Apostrophe portal, the Russian commentator says that “Putin intends to remain president for life,” and to do that, he will “try to use Medevedev as a card in the game with the West,” pushing the prime minister forward as a liberal with whom the West can deal (apostrophe.com.ua/article/world/ex-ussr/2015-09-02/putin-gotovit-sdelku-s-zapadom-chtobyi-izbejat-pozora/2199).
Having suffered “in essence a serious defeat in all his plans including the idea of ‘the Russian world,’ ‘Novorossiya,’ and nuclear blackmail,” Piontkovsky writes, Putin has been “spasmodically seeking a new means of peaceful coexistence with the West” based on “some kind of new deal” which would help him “save face” by covering his defeats.
The very public “activation of [his] friendship with Medvedev is not [Putin’s] only card,” he continues. “Putin’s entire network in the West is insistently putting forward the thesis that we need Putin, he can help us in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and we must not drive him into a corner but instead help him to save face.”
This week, for example, there have been stories in Israeli and other Middle Eastern media outlets that Putin is ready to send troops to support Syria’s Bashar Asad, create a base near Damascus, and present this to the West as the basis for agreement and a new opening for relations between Moscow and the West, Piontkovsky argues.
“Two years ago, [Putin] was able via the trick with ‘chemical disarmament’ to lead Obama like a simpleton and save Asad. Now,” the Russian analyst suggests, Putin “will attempt to sell Obama his military support of Asad as Moscow’s participation” against ISIS. Putin’s plans have not been “officially confirmed but such a turn of events is completely possible.”
Putin is becoming more active elsewhere on the international scene as well, the Russian analyst says. Today, he is in Beijing to mark the end of World War II in Asia, “but for the sake of justice one must say that the Chinese community party didn’t fight with [Japan’s] army;” it fought with the Nationalists.
And Putin supporters are already playing up Putin’s plans to address the UN General Assembly about east-west relations. Putin clearly hopes to trade his support in the Middle East for Western restraint in backing Ukraine. But Piontkovsky says that the Russian leader is likely to suffer another defeat and another disappointment about such a trade.
Nonetheless, the reappearance of Medvedev with Putin will certainly lead many in the West to assume that Putin is turning away from his aggressive posture and toward reform. That almost certainly isn’t true, but if some leaders in the West think that it is, that conclusion could have serious consequences.