From propaganda to missile deployments, Russian leader Vladimir Putin is testing Obama's resolve–while claiming to be America's victim.”>
In one of the better surveys of Putinology to appear in the last year, Mikhail Zygars All the Kremlins Men does much to upend the conventional wisdom about U.S.-Russian relations, particularly as offered by the American architects of those relations over the past eight years.
Vladimir Putin, Zygar writes, did not like the new American president from the start. For him, Barack Obama was both soft and intractable Paradoxically, Obama, the most idealistic and peace-loving U.S. president in living memory, became a symbol of war in Russia, a target for Russian nation propaganda and racist jokes, and a hate figure for millions of patriotic Russians. He was caricatured as an ill-fated enemy doomed to be defeated by Vladimir Putin.
Surveying some much-buried news over the last seven days, one begins to appreciate the weight of this grim appraisal.
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes in Syria, following extensive documentation of Russian warplanes targeting civilian structures such as hospitals and schools with incendiary munitions and now heavy-duty bunker busting bombs.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has accused Moscow of abetting barbarism in Syria; and Washington has also accused the Kremlin of purposefully bombing a UN aid convoy in northern Syria last month, a claim which open source investigation has corroborated.
Also, on Friday, Estonias security establishment reported that Russia is deploying Iskander-M ballistic missile systems to the Kaliningrad exclave, a long-bruited contingency that was first introduced by Russias then-placeholder president, Dmitry Medvedev, on Nov. 5, 2008 exactly a day after Obamas election.
The Iskander-M, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, poses a direct menace to U.S. allies in Eastern Europe, and will be arriving at a time when Russias deployed nuclear arsenal has now outstripped Americas by 429 warheads. As The Daily Beast reported, this outstrips the cap on warheads, set to be fully in place by 2018, as agreed to in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, although the numbers could well vary until then.( The Iskander intelligence coincided with the alleged violation of Estonian and Finnish airspace by Russian Su-2 7 plane fighters .)
But Russia hasnt merely been amassing a new arsenal in Europe.
In the fortnight following a collapsed U.S. and Russian brokered ceasefire for Syria, Putin has doubled supply runs by air and ocean of materiel intended to bolster the Assad regime, according to Reuters. In all likelihood, the supplied are intended to help it and its Iranian proxies retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
The cargo has included the revamped S-3 00 VM antiaircraft missile system, which can( theoretically) take out U.S. warplanes should any come within range. The Kremlins chief media mouthpiece, the U.S.-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov, who hosts the tabloid propaganda indicate News of the Week, was straightforward: Well shoot them down.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov has all but threatened to do simply that, amid recent disclosures that the Obama administration may be mulling a military confrontation with the Assad regime, as recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA, both of which fear that the autumn of Aleppo would exacerbate U.S. terrorism threats.
In response to White House spokesman Joshua Earnests questioning Russias need for advance anti-aircraft deterrent when Russias year-long intervention in Syria was meant to target ISIS, whose aerial component has yet to announce itself, the Twitter account of the Russian embassy in the U.S. posted a taunting image responding, Because you never genuinely know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.
After coalition aircraft accidentally bombed Syrian soldiers in Deir Ezzor, Russian officials have openly taken to accusing the United States of supporting ISIS in Syria, whereas this campaign of conspiratorial disinformation had previously been more characterized by whisperings and nudges, principally in the Baghdad operations room where Russian army policemen and snoops work cheek-by-jowl with Iranian counterparts and with Iranian-built Shia militias.
Vladimir Putin either means business or wants to project the image of a man who does.
He suspended his countrys cooperation in a 16 -year-old plutonium clean-up pact, as well as a 2013 nuclear research and developing agreement and another bilateral program reconfiguring reactors to obviate their utilize of weapons-grade uranium.