The George W. Bush parallel was lost on very few analysts when Vladimir Putin proudly announced that he was withdrawing a significant amount of Russia’s forces from Syria because their “mission is accomplished.” The announcement came just four days after the Atlantic published an overview of “The Obama Doctrine,” wherein U.S. President Barack Obama told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Russia was “bleeding,” “overextended,” and that Putin had made a terrible mistake. In both Syria and Ukraine, Obama argued, the Russian ruler had pursued policies that made his country weaker.
“The notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now, in Syria or in Ukraine, than they were before they invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence,” the U.S. president said.
Yet there was Putin, proudly proclaiming the opposite. According to him, Russia could draw down its mission in Syria because it had achieved its goals. The White House, and the U.S. intelligence community, appeared completely surprised at the announcement of Russia’s drawdown. Once again, Vladimir Putin had defied American expectations and seemingly came out on top.
Putin’s announcement was filled with lies and distortions, but one glaring truth underscored his words — unlike Bush’s now-infamous declaration from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the Russian president indeed may have accomplished his mission.
Read the Remainder at Foreign Policy