I've always thought of Vladimir V. Putin as an amoral ex-KGB thug. And I still do. But I have to admit he wrote a rather progressive op-ed piece in the New York Times on Wednesday. Overlook a belittling of Syrians' desire for democracy, a fudge about who used the poison gas and a gratuitous sermon at the end, and what's left is a well-reasoned appeal to international law.
Perhaps I was just a tad disoriented by the president of Russia selling peace while the president of the U.S. was selling war, but I was pleasantly surprised.
He made a powerful point with his argument, "If you cannot count on international law,
then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing
number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is
logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with
talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is
I remain ambivalent about his message, however. I think we should take his gesture seriously, give him the benefit of the doubt, but we shouldn't forget that this was the man who butchered Chechnya and is a leader who continues to run a gangster regime. In other words we should be receptive, but very cautious.