There are lots of reasons to distrust and dislike Vladimir Putin. I won’t bother to list them all here. But I have a grudging respect for him. Putin gets things done. Not necessarily the right things, but not necessarily the wrong things either.
The West is very good at criticizing Putin’s actions, but not very constructive at engaging with Russia. Our politicians seem to be much more comfortable keeping Russia as a potential enemy, rather than doing the hard work needed to become true friends.
A year ago I wrote about Ukraine, asking whether Europe or Russia was the villain. My bets were on Europe. One year later, and part of Ukraine is now Russia. It’s the part that voted overwhelmingly to be. Not an ideal solution, but it could have been a lot worse. Ukraine’s not in the news so much these days. Instead it’s Syria. Enter Putin, stage left.
The bad guy is at it again, invading another country. Just like last time, the West opposes Russian intervention. Just like before, Russia was invited in. And just like the previous time, the West doesn’t have any better ideas.
Russian intervention in Syria may not solve the problem. It will almost certainly create new and unexpected ones. But the fact remains that in the past three years, with America and Europe looking on, wringing their hands, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and millions displaced, precipitating a humanitarian crisis that now threatens to engulf Europe.
Not only did we in the free world fail to do anything meaningful, we had no idea what outcome we even wanted. We just wanted the bad guys to go away and stop fighting.
So whatever Putin does, can he really do a worse job than we did?