Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Putin Now Offers a ‘Hybrid’ Peace in Syria, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – Vladimir Putin, having popularized the concept of “a hybrid war” in Ukraine, is now pursuing “a hybrid peace” in Syria, one in which he is given credit for ending a conflict despite continuing it in an exact analogy to the way he has avoided in the minds of some responsibility for naked aggression by calling it something else.

            In an Ekho Moskvy commentary yesterday, Anton Orekh notes that in this Orwellian world, “if one can conduct a hybrid war, then why can’t one conduct a hybrid peace?”  by declaring that Russia has withdrawn its forces but then “continuing to fight” as if that declaration had never happened (echo.msk.ru/blog/oreh/1733644-echo/).

            As with the Kremlin’s pursuit of a “hybrid” war in Ukraine, Putin’s announcement that he is pulling Russian forces out of Syria has produced a variety of commentaries as to what that means, Orekh says. Indeed, “there are just as many versions as there are specialists. And it is possible that not one of them is correct” given the ways in which rhetoric and reality change.

            “In Crimea, by a similar hybrid means, first appeared very police people all covered in green. They were either self-defense forces or constant buyers at the Russian military stores;” and then after their actions, they became “heroes of Russia.” In the Donbas, Russian forces have been fighting for two years but “formally” Moscow doesn’t acknowledge that.

            “This experience has turned out to be very valuable for the war in Syria as well,” the Moscow commentator continues. Moscow bombs the opponents of Asad rather than terrorists but insists that “we are bombing terrorists: you can say whatever you like and we will spit on it” and redouble our claims about what is going on.

            “The meaning of hybrid war,” Orekh says, is to say one thing while doing another, “to deny absolutely everything and to assert exactly the opposite.” Russians “willingly believe what they need to,” he suggests.  As to foreigners, their attitudes “do not have any meaning. And practice has showed that such a tactic is completely effective.”

            As the events of two years ago showed, “no one interfered with [Russia] turning Crimea upside down and simply taking it for itself. No one can interfere with [Russia’s] fighting in the Donbas and pour kerosene on the flames. No one and nothing can oppose us in Syria,” the commentator continues.

            “And now we fully can say that we have pulled our bombers from there and then go in with our helicopters via another door, to withdraw one unit and meet it with flours and to introduce another unit without excessive noise,” Orekh says.

            For all this to work, he concludes, all that is necessary is “to call black white and look into the eyes of one’s interlocutor with a smile.” In fact, although Orekh does not say so, one more thing is necessary: those who are being lied to have to be willing to accept what Putin says without challenging him. And as Orekh could say but doesn’t, there are all too many like that.

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