The Putin Doctrine

by: Shaun Appleby

Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 00:01:11 AM EDT

A number of attempts have been made to discern and describe a 'Putin doctrine' during the years of his influence on Russian and world affairs, including some recently as a consequence of his reaction to the Syria chemical weapons crisis. Most suggest a doctrine of 'reasserting Russia's power' or 'building Russia up by tearing the US down,' an aspiration and strategy which, while arguably correct, seem to miss Putin's underlying and unmistakeable political philosophy.

Here we propose an argument for a 'Putin doctrine' as follows:

No nation, group of nations or international organisation has the right to interfere or intervene without consent in the internal affairs of any sovereign state under any circumstances short of the proven violation of existing conventions governing the use of weapons of mass destruction.

In other words a sovereign state has the right to deal with dissent, insurgency and secession by whatever means it otherwise sees fit. That this might include conventional warfare against civilians, mass arrests and detentions, summary executions, massacres, genocide and authoritarian terrorism is left to the discretion of the state's leadership. And if the state is an ally, Russia will actively disable the Security Council from taking action against it on behalf of any majority of the larger international community whom might find such activity objectionable. As Russian 'hard power' inevitably increases we need to think this through carefully.

Shaun Appleby :: The Putin Doctrine
This has been his argument against the West since Kosovo, this formalises what Russia is doing in Syria, this has been the mutually respectful framework, beyond Caspian resource sharing and a mutual distrust of the West, for which the autocracies of Iran and China have already signed up and this is the offer now being placed demonstrably on the world geopolitical table for any neighbouring republic or regime on the fringes of the former Soviet sphere of influence.

Ironically this is almost an inversion of the Truman doctrine of 1947, where "totalitarian regimes" coerced "free peoples", and which some claim heralded the formal Cold War. Putin is now standing against free peoples coercing totalitarian regimes and his principal means will be by wielding the Security Council; the Russian veto on the one hand along with an intractable insistence that multilateral or unilateral end runs are illegal and unacceptable; with Russian military force ready to back the 'legal' claims of authoritarian legitimacy.

So the law-abiding Russians want to constrain the US to acting within the UN, which probably matches the view of many progressives and internationalists, but only to smother possible future sanctions and interventions with vetoes. And the tragic examples of Grozny and Syria should be sufficient to see what is at stake. We need to consider the kind of rule such naked internal power inspires and the impact it would have on Russia's, and China's, clients and immediate neighbours.

Here's Ariel Cohen's analysis of the Russian Foreign Ministry's updated Foreign Policy Concept of February, 2013:

The Putin Doctrine proclaims that the United Nations is the principal international institution through which Russia implements its foreign policy, because Russia has a veto in the U.N. Security Council. Further, the document states that there is a threat for "world peace and stability" from "unilateral sanctions and other coercive measures, including armed aggression," outside the framework of the Security Council.

The Concept warns that "some concepts that are being implemented are aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments in sovereign states under the pretext of protecting civilian population." This is a clear reference to the NATO action in Libya. At the time, Putin said the Security Council resolution was "reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade."

Ariel Cohen - The Kremlin's World NYT 5 Apr 13

While Cohen sees the 'doctrine' as broader this observation speaks to our point. And it is exactly the pressure to "overthrow legitimate governments in sovereign states" that raised Russian outrage over NATO action in Kosovo; an area very much within former Tsarist and Soviet spheres of influence. It is no accident that Putin's rise to power was engineered on the back of a brutal and merciless war prosecuted against Chechens in Grozny, perpetrating the worst tactics of shelling, bombing, mass execution and intimidation among civilians apparent in the former Yugoslavia while blatantly thumbing his nose at international objection and protest. He even used ballistic missiles to attack the city, hitting a maternity hospital and a mosque, in a symbolic act of defiance.

Remember, when Putin says "terrorist" he means anyone who opposes him or the leadership of his allies, human rights issues notwithstanding. Our language of asymmetrical conflict has become his justification for aggression, oppression and authoritarianism:

Nothing angers the Chechens so much as to hear that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president-elect, who yesterday met Tony Blair and the Queen in London, claim that the war, of which he is the architect and beneficiary, is directed against "terrorists" and not the Chechen people as a whole. From the moment the Russian army invaded Chechnya at the beginning of last October, it relied on the firepower of its artillery, rocket launchers and aircraft to devastate towns and villages.

When several long-range, ground-to-ground missiles plummeted into a Grozny marketplace last October, killing some 200 people, Mr Putin simply denied that it had happened. He showed no signs of embarrassment when the official Russian military spokesman blithely confirmed the attack a few hours later.

Welcome to Mr Putin's Grozny Independent 18 Apr 00

That this same logic has been applied to the opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime seems perfectly obvious. It should be noted that the contagious spread of the narrative of "terrorism" to encompass legitimate dissent, civil disobedience and even armed criminality is a trend we need to quickly reverse among our own organs of state security. It plays into the hands of our adversary whom in this respect has already anticipated us by over a decade.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

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The Putin Doctrine | 17 comments
so, that makes Russia to be the world's GOP... (2.00 / 5)
and Putin then is the Mitch McConnell of the world.

heh..... (2.00 / 4)
The mental image of McChinless and Mr. Shirtless as world leaders is most unseemly.....thanks bubba!

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
it's Vlad Worthington and his dog Spot! (2.00 / 2)
or Yertle McTurtle howling at the Vlad in the Moon!

[ Parent ]
LOL....let's hum a tune for " Vlad in the Moon!" (2.00 / 2)

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
Thanks Shaun..... (2.00 / 6)
I just read the comment section at orange and then the responses to Steve Benen's post on the Maddow Blog...seems like an intelligent and (egads) nuanced conversation is hard earned!

Right continues to draw hearts on Putin pictures

As we discussed earlier, last week was pretty productive for U.S. foreign policy. Over the course of six days, the Obama administration pushed Syria into the chemical weapons convention, helped create a diplomatic framework that will hopefully rid Syria of its stockpiles, successfully pushed Russia into a commitment to help disarm its own ally, quickly won support from the United Nations and our allies -- all without firing a shot.

Over the last 24 hours, the right has responded to these developments with one simple question: Isn't Vladimir Putin dreamy?

The complexities of a realistic foreign policy analysis and conversation do get lost with simple minded and ideologically driven responses. It concerns me however when elected officials past and present seem to have the same narrow focus as those writing a quick blog response.  

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

per usual... (2.00 / 7)
the l'orange gallery lies in perpetual training for the the knee-jerk olympics.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
i heard they proposed knee jerks for the (2.00 / 4)
2020 olympics in japan.

[ Parent ]
Heh (2.00 / 7)
Thanks for your support over there. Sheesh. I had one or two sincere interlocutors but otherwise pretty discouraging. Some of those folks must just loathe themselves for waking up in the United States every day; I'm not sure I understand it. 'If you have a bumper sticker that says "No Blood For Oil," it had better be on your bike.'

And Obama's not very popular either; the Left seems to be running short of heroes just lately. It's pretty obvious that I think the fluffing that Putin's received is just offensive; the man is a demon from the seven circles of Hell.

[ Parent ]
LOL (2.00 / 7)
What Rachel said:

He is not that into you.

No. Although I can think of nothing more calculated to alarm China than a personality cult arising around Putin. History is full of unintended consequences; I'm guessing Vladimir is getting a bit too far out over his skis. As Benen noted:

Indeed, it was hard to miss the president gloating just a little on ABC yesterday, saying of Putin, "I welcome him being involved. I welcome him saying, 'I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime, to deal with these chemical weapons.'"

Steve Benen - Right continues to draw hearts on Putin pictures Maddow Blog 16 Sep 13

Now Putin needs to deliver the goods. For all the bluster emerging from the Assad regime recently they must be a little doubtful at handing over the keys to the car.

[ Parent ]
Andrew Sullivan..... (2.00 / 4)

The Syria Dodge

Have you noticed how almost all of Obama's critics on Syria have berated him for the optics, but have never said what they would have done in each particular moment? Greg Sargent has.


But that would require them leaving Politico-style bullshit and actually looking at the situation and trying to figure out the best way forward for US interests. And that's hard. It's sooo much easier to talk in crude and spectacularly dumb terms like "strong" or "weak" without any reference to the goals at hand. The dirty truth: pundits are so much more comfortable examining style because they're actually too lazy or terrified of actually tackling the substance, let alone taking a stand on it.

Greg Sargent's article has the content but I just had to share Andrew's words re the coverage.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

Sargent's Piece is Good... (2.00 / 5)
But personally I think the whole public response to the crisis, from 21st August to date, has been a woeful, sorry indictment of our media, the punditry, most factions of both parties, especially the partisan Left, the Tea Party Right and the Paulistas, Congress and the general pubic. No wonder Putin assumes he can breeze in and drop a mendacious stink-bomb in the opinion pages of the Times without receiving universal and well-deserved howls of derision.

Honestly, I think this is what end of empire probably looks like when you are living it. Personally I assume that most Americans will soon pull their socks up and straighten their thinking caps and get on with business but the Left has me permanently mistrustful. All confidence in critical thinking has deserted them. They couldn't agree on the agenda for a Teddy bears' picnic never mind critique foreign affairs; in Russia Putin would feed them to the fishes.

So much for 'crashing the gates.' They've stormed the moat and are milling around in it high-fiving each other.

[ Parent ]
I Mean Seriously... (2.00 / 4)
Did anyone follow the public relations "field-craft" discussion that followed Putin's op-ed publication? It almost seems that if every American who made a nice career out of bull-sh*tting their fellow citizens, "selling their book" or grifting or "pumping and dumping" or spinning or lobbying or marketing or "shearing the sheep," suddenly stopped the damn economy would probably collapse. Financial services and bullsh*t; our two biggest products.

We're awash in it and the tide is still coming in. Swim for your lives.

[ Parent ]
Consider... (2.00 / 4)
The headwind Obama is up against sometimes. Emphasis added:

Today,Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed about Syria in the New York Times. The piece was placed by the public-relations giant Ketchum, Buzzfeed reported. On Nov. 16, 2012, we explored how Ketchum placed pro-Russia op-eds in American publications by businesspeople and others without disclosing the role of the Russian government. Ketchum's latest public filing says it was paid $1.9 million by Russia for the six-month period ending May 31, 2013. It received another $3.7 million for its work for Russian energy giant Gazprom over the same period.

Justin Elliot - From Russia With PR Pro Publica 12 Sep 13

That's CNBC and our own Huffington Post they're talking about, you know. "Without disclosing the role of the Russian government?" Nice. I'm all for a free and open society but there's a point at which we do things for money that are arguably self-defeating and short-sighted. And after two or three generations of this bullsh*t people don't trust government or their own capacity to think? Quelle surprise.

[ Parent ]
While I take comfort in knowing President Obama understands this (2.00 / 4)
I am losing faith in the voting public. The insidious effect of to many years of anti government propaganda, the difficulty of finding of reliable news sources, the seemingly less educated public, etc, etc, makes it harder to elect leaders with the ability to govern in this complex world we all live in.

Bullsh*t indeed!  

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
Yeah... (2.00 / 5)
It's nice to have a place to rant about this a bit without being assailed by troops of flying monkeys. Thanks for your tolerance.

[ Parent ]
Yes it is. (2.00 / 3)
These are complex issues that are worthy of considered conversation. It is hard enough to think about them constructively without having the sociopolitical equivalent of illiterate tundra farmers throwing rotten turnips at you.

I just spent ten minutes not writing a comment here, for example. I am in DC and met today with some very interesting people who you would most definitely recognize. After drafting some thoughts from that conversation that map onto exactly the topic here I concluded that I couldn't do so without compromising complex and delicate interests.

And that is how our national leadership works.

If it matters what you say - and you aren't a kleptocratic dicator like...

It's pretty obvious that I think the fluffing that Putin's received is just offensive; the man is a demon from the seven circles of Hell.

...then you have to be thoughtful with the impact of your words and actions. Pundits - paid and volunteer - most often are not bound by such considerations.

Let there be no doubt, however, that we are suffering from our Puditocracy. The cynicism and hopelessness of so much of the American public so much of the time emerges from a false world largely created by our otherwise admirably free press. There is an assumption of ill intent among our public and private leadership which is on average as absent here as it is present in places like Russia and Syria. Whatever else Snowden has done, acting as an litmus for how poisonously cynical we have become is the most valuable and obvious.

Our system works, very well. Our intelligence services are unprecedented in the oversight in place as to how they use the information they hold. The EU allies often held up by the Left as paradigms of virtue literally and specifically take lessons directly from our folks on how to protect individual liberties because no country in the world does it as well as we do.

My position has not changed in many years, since before the Moose reared it's shaggy head. Our greatest threat is not over reach of government by either party, not evil corporate overlords, not hordes of lazy welfare exploiters. The only real threat America faces is its own lack of belief in itself.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Well Said (2.00 / 3)
It strikes me that just about any criticism which might be levelled at our media and its chosen celebrities is a reflection of the preferences of a majority of consumers; as discerned by subtle marketing analysis. We probably need, as you say, to lift our expectations.

[ Parent ]
The Putin Doctrine | 17 comments

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