Vladimir Putin: Greater than Talleyrand


“Right now Syria is Vladimir Putin’s Congress of Vienna: it permits him to lift his country out of years of the disparagement and disdain it has endured from the West.”

Philippe ARNOT

in Boulevard Voltaire, October 2, 2015

October 16, 2015

Translated from French by Tom Winter

In contrast with his predecessor Krushchev, who in October 1960 hammered on his desk with a shoe at the UN General Assembly, Putin appears as cunning as an Altaî lynx, advancing with measured pace, without noise, and leaping like lightning on his prey, but only when he is certain of the catch.

“In this state of affairs, where so many passions are in ferment and where so many people act in every direction, impetuosity and indolence are two snares that, it seems to me, are equally to be avoided. So I manage to contain myself in a calm dignity which alone seems to suit me,” said Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna. It appears that Putin has been meditating on this formulation. Now some may object, and they won’t be entirely wrong,  that the more a man is faced with imbeciles, the more his own intelligence is multiplied.

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When he addressed the UN General Assembly this week, Putin knew very well that Obama and Hollande would refuse the alliance he proposed. He knew they would not budge an iota on the subject of Bashar al-Assad. A democrat all the same is not going to support a bloody dictator. One has one’s principles, after all, and when one has principles, one hangs on to them — so long as the storm hasn’t broken out yet. And so today, Obama and Hollande are sulking in their corner. It is just what Putin expected, [as if to say] “You don’t wish to settle the problem with me, then I’m going to settle it alone, and according to my own conception. This will allow me to settle accounts with the rebels and clear up the situation; there are two many actors in this narrow space.”

Finally, alone — but not too sure about that. It is logical, in effect to think that in the coming weeks or maybe even sooner, he will launch his soldiers on the ground. It is even a good bet that he’ll have the assistance of the Iranians, that he defended, with forethought, amidst the nuclear negotiations, Iranians who are just waiting to get him the ball. 

And what will happen then? One can imagine that not long after, the two boobs Obama and Hollande will come hat in hand to offer him their help, fearing to see their influence lost. (but what is their influence now, really?) Grand master Putin will accept but he will stay the winner and I’m ready to bet that he will even manage that Bashar al-Assad will slip out on tip-toe. 

For its part, Iran will have had its revenge, and such a payback, coming on top of all these years of denigration that it has put up with from the Westerners.

The only satisfaction that the West will get out of what will be for them a defeat, is that Putin will have done their work for them, but taking with him the influence that they will have lost.

At the Congress of Vienna, Talleyrand, by his intelligence, extracted France from its isolation and caused all Europe to forget that France had been the overall loser. Syria, at this moment, is Vladimir Putin’s Congress of Vienna: it permits him to lift his country out of years of the disparagement and disdain it has endured from the West, and to affirm that it is from now on the premier diplomatic power in the world. In a few weeks, Putin will be able to make Talleyrand’s statement his own: “My desire is that during the centuries people will continue to discuss what I have been, what I have thought, and what I have intended.”

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