The United States, if Congress passes a resolution for a limited airstrike, will attempt to disable Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's ability to use chemical weapons against his people in the country’s ongoing civil war.
Unfortunately, there is little discussion to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for propping up the Assad regime with military, political, economic and diplomatic support.
Putin, who in his own country brazenly jails the opposition, marginalizes civil and human rights, and continues an ongoing assault on civil liberties, continues a Russian tradition of being an enabler of ruthless Syrian governments.
The world is at this crossroads of crisis over Syria, in part, because Assad has had almost unconditional support from Putin.
Sadly, though not surprisingly, the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate has given Putin the moral legitimacy to pursue the policy. In many ways, Russia’s foreign policy has become an extension of Russian Orthodoxy’s perverted and arrogant messianic mission to save the world.
Ironically, in light of the internal corruption of the Russian Orthodox Church, it should try saving itself first.
Not learning its lesson from providing political legitimacy to an inept, corrupt monarchy contributing to the Russian Revolution, the Orthodox hierarchy then created a cozy relationship with the Communist regime, often handing to the KGB (the Soviet secret police) priests fighting for justice.
Putin, like the leadership of the Orthodox Church, long and intimately aware of Assad’s brutality, is now attempting to provide Russia political cover as moral outrage simmers in the civilized world. He’s been quoted saying Russia could support a limited airstrike, if there is clear and convincing evidence.
Of course, Russia will not turn its back on Syria unless the political and economic relationship no longer has a substantial benefit. The international self-interest most nations act on through their foreign policy, sometimes shrouded in the veneer of moral outrage to right a wrong, would be the reason for Russia abandoning Syria.
Putin probably wants to see actual photos of Assad pressing a button launching a missile clearly marked “chemical weapons for civilians.” In short, Putin’s words are empty.
According to an editorial in Asharq Al-Awsat, a pan-Arab daily newspaper, “The Assad regime, whether we are talking about the regime of Hafez Assad the father, or Bashar Assad the son, has a brutal history of violence and massacres which stretches back more than 40 years.”
Russia’s authoritarian leader shouldn’t need “clear evidence” of Assad’s use of chemical weapons to rethink Moscow’s relationship with the Syrian dictator. His ongoing efforts to provide Assad cover should be yet another reason for world leaders to re-think their relationships with Russia and the personal accountability Putin should have in this ongoing tragedy.
On Thursday and Friday, President Barack Obama [Unlink] and other G-20 leaders will gather in St. Petersburg. Strongman Putin is hosting the event. President Obama has canceled a private meeting with Putin, widely perceived as a diplomatic snub.
To his credit, the president will meet with human rights activists who increasingly feel the wrath of Putin’s authoritarianism and Russian Orthodoxy’s immoral moralism.
It should be part of a larger discussion of holding Vladimir Putin accountable not just for the Russia’s internal backward slide, but also his missteps in bringing the world to this point over Syria.
Paul Jesep is a policy analyst, corporate chaplain, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”.