Saturday, December 12, 2015

Threatening Nuclear Weapons in Syria is Putin's Attempt to get Russia Treated like a Superpower Again

Putin has threatened to bomb ISIS with nuclear warheads
The stakes appear to have been raised in Russia's Syria gamble, as President Vladimir Putin casually let it drop that Russia will "hopefully" not have to use nuclear weapons against Islamic State (Isis). The key word here, however, is "appear".
It's important to remember that military involvement in Syria, and the harsh statements that regularly accompany it, serve a dual purpose for the Russian government.
On the international front, Russia is busy expanding its comparatively limited sphere of influence and seizing whatever opportunity it can to one up the West. Prolonged confusion over how best to deal with Isis specifically and the Syrian civil war in general gave the Russian government a golden opportunity to seem proactive and decisive next to the likes of Barack Obama and David Cameron.
Sure, Russia threw its lot in with dictator Bashar al-Assad but to Russian officials, those are merely details. What's important is that Russia is acting as though it knows what it's doing, while the West, all the way until the horrific, Isis-orchestrated Paris attacks, has demonstrated much more self-doubt.
Syria is Russia's chance to be treated like a superpower again. Dropping the word "nukes" into a conversation about the Syrian conflict is just one more way of trying on that fancy old Soviet mantle, from the days when the US and the USSR seemed to divide the world between them.
This rhetoric doesn't make Russia's real path in Syria any less uncertain going forward, but it does up perceived prestige points, especially if we consider the rise of the right in Europe and the popularity of someone like Donald Trump in the US.
At a time when demagogues with extreme positions are dominating the headlines, Russia laying the nuclear option on the table can actually appeal to a certain demographic far beyond Russian borders. Trump is saying "ban all Muslims", while Putin is slyly suggesting to basically nuke parts of Syria; but next to Trump, Putin appears to be more clever and refined (and always allowing himself a way to save face, by merely hinting at the nuclear option).
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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