For Putin Assad Is Himself

There is some ego business going on, sure. Like he said recently to the US, you take Iraq, leave Syria to me. It is important to him that he projects to his people that they are on par with the US. The Cold War is over, but the status is on. If he can demonstrate rivalry of any kind, that is proof.

Geopolitics is a very real thing. It is concrete. Just like gravity is a property of matter, landmass oozes something. It is almost independent of the people who inhabit that landmass, only we wouldn’t know one way or the other if there were no people. Does Antarctica ooze geopolitics? Go find out. I am staying put. Maybe it is a combination. The landmass plus the people on it ooze something. So it’s not just the headcount, it’s that and the size of the landmass. Like force is mass times acceleration.

So it is erroneous to ask Russia, what is your population? What is your GDP? Do you have nukes? Because it is not about any of that, it is about the landmass. And that geopolitical pull has stayed consistent while the territory has seen major political changes. Tectonic, some would say. Lenin’s works have been circulated more than everything except the Bible.

The people, and the GDP and the nukes in one basket multiplied by the landmass: that is Russia’s geopolitical pull.

So, I guess, the message is, Syria chaos is ISIS. But Russia chaos is not ISIS, it is nukes. Do you want that on your hands? I don’t know if Putin is being threatening or prophetic. But to Putin Assad is himself. He is saying, don’t challenge my power inside Russia. Let me be.

This makes for a tricky situation. Assad bombed Damascus like the Bushes bombed Baghdad. Assad is not a ruler, he is an occupying force. The Bushes got out of Iraq. When will Assad get out? That is a valid question.

A lot of people miss out on the Russia-India friendship. It exists. And it is at the people level. Russians know and worship Bollywood figures like non Indian Americans might not be aware of, for example. In India Putin is not this nuke-breathing monster. He is a friend who might have stepped on a landmine or two. There is some armor damage. Indians might have some qualms about the people in Pakistan, or the people in China, but with Russia it’s all clear. No issues, no blemishes.

I don’t know Ukraine. But if ethnic Russians have grievances in countries like Ukraine, I can totally relate to that. Like, deeply, personally. Look at what is going on in Nepal right about now. Only India will not engage in military adventures. Putin is more impulsive. When you constrain democracy like he has, you can afford to. Modi has a robust opposition and media. You can argue Indian origin minorities have been wronged in many countries: Sri Lanka, Burma, not to mention the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. And it’s not just Indians. When there are ethnic riots in places like Indonesia, ethnic Chinese get targeted. Why did Lee Kuan Yew break away from Malaysia? He was an ethnic Chinese who refused to accept second class status in a united Malaysia. Good for him. He went on to do the work and inspire Deng Xiaoping. This seems to be a big country problem. For China, for India, for Russia. Americans don’t understand because white guys don’t face that problem in Mexico. But give Donald Trump enough news cycles, and you never know.

Democracy is a force on its own. It is not dependent on a superpower push. It will work its way through ultimately, everywhere, that is my belief. For instance, the recent Saudi elections where women both voted and were elected, in however small a place, was news to me. I was thrown off balance. I did not see it coming. The Saudis be like, welcome Hillary.

But Russia is nowhere close to Syria. Syria is utter chaos. It went off my personal radar a long time ago. The magnitude of it all is so, I mean. If anything, Russia is law and order. Maybe too much so.

The Chinese have this thing called non-interference. On Tibet they say “splittism.” On the world they say non-interference. As in, we are too busy taking care of our own. We have too many poor people. It will be two more decades before we can afford to get our head above the water. For example in a small country like Nepal, they deal with whoever is in power. While the Nepali Maoists combusted the Nepali countryside, the Chinese dealt with the ruling king, exclusively. When the Maoists came to power, the Maoist premier got a front row seat at the Chinese Olympics. Non-interference. We will deal with whoever is in power. Americans are more nosy. It is half about spreading democracy, half about selling guns. It is good for business. “Strong on defense” sells better than anything else Donald has said. It is a well oiled machine. It has been put into the political culture, deeply embedded. And it is not just bad manners. Before there is rule of law between nations, there will be room for a force or two or three. Even after there is rule of law, the law will have to be enforced. Liberty seems to have a price. Life and property need protection. That makes room for more amorphous things like free speech and creativity and the arts and tech startups. And America has this thing where it necessarily has to be private companies manufacturing and supplying arms. It is a good arrangement. That church state separation is very respectful of private enterprise.

While I watch elections, from one country to another, like astrophysicists watch the stars. India is the most interesting. There is always yet another major election just round the corner. Bihar is over, Uttar Pradesh is on. And then there is the behemoth. I mean, who runs for office for a year? Two years? Every place else, it is a month. They also like to spend time actually governing. Give it to the Americans. They never stop running. It is one grand conversation. It is galactic. Like it or not, Trump is a star. Trump was doing reality TV before he figured out he was missing out on the real reality TV. Trump 2016. Putin should let Zhirinovsky have some of the limelight. I guess Russia is not that stretched of a democracy. Instead Putin does a three hour “press conference” where he is sitting on stage and 1500 journalists are down there in the auditorium. The guy does both elections and press conferences. How bad can he be?

My political journey identical to that of President Vladimir Putin: PM Narendra Modi