Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies. Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
At this weekend’s G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin has invested a substantial amount of his time rallying nations to stand against American efforts to engage in military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. As of right now, it’s working, and I can imagine Barack Obama pouting in the dark somewhere, like Rihanna at the VMAs. Syria seems like it’s shaping up to be another Iraq. Yet again, large swaths of the international community are choosing to rebuke American military adventurism.
After months of standing firm (and almost alone) against international intervention in Syria, by the end of August, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed resigned to the prospect of a U.S. strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. To be sure, he was not happy about it, but the use of chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb appeared to have brought the current phase of the Syrian crisis to its inevitable climax.
Vladimir Putin doesn’t mind posing for shirtless photos — but paint the Russian president in drag, and you’ve apparently gone too far. Russian police seized a portrait depicting Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wearing women’s lingerie from the Museum of Power in St. Petersburg and shut the gallery down. According to the Associated Press, the artist, Konstantin Altunin, has fled the country.
Vladimir Putin appears to be seizing on the Egyptian crisis and the U.S. response to it to expand Russia’s influence in the Arab world’s most populous country. On Thursday afternoon President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would be cancelling a joint military exercise with the Egyptian Army over its violent crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The very wonderful Russian superstar opera singer Anna Netrebko this week made a very cryptic statement. She posted the following on her Facebook page: “As an artist, it is my great joy to collaborate with all of my wonderful colleagues, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I have never and will never discriminate against anyone.”
Two German cabinet ministers have added to criticism of Russia's anti-"gay propaganda" law, saying President Vladimir Putin appeared to be leading his country into a "flawless dictatorship." The words chosen by the two members of the Free Democrats (FDP), the party of the Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, himself gay and a critic of the legislation, play on comments by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that Putin was a "flawless democrat".
With U.S.-Russia relations getting increasingly tense, it comes as little surprise that U.S. President Barack Obama postponed his bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some people wished he would go, if only to send the strongest possible message to Mr. Putin directly about the need to end Russia’s crackdown on human rights. On the other hand, Mr. Obama still has that opportunity when he attends the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5 and 6.