Sunday, October 18, 2015


Love him or hate him - the educated and rational man (which leaves out President Obama) has to respect and fear President Putin. On a personal note: I served in West Berlin as a member of the U.S. Army Military Intelligence during the same time frame that Putin served in the Soviet KGB in East Germany, so we are fellow Cold Warriors; albeit on different sides of the Berlin Wall. In those days we did battle using bloodless electronic warfare with our Russian opposite numbers in the East, and one had to respect their intelligence and professionalism. In fact, I often felt that I was engaged in a sort of complex chess match with my opposite numbers in the East, a feeling common with many of my fellow electronic warfare operators. Today I'm in retirement and Putin is using his considerable talents of chess master in the Middle East, and as an American Patriot I can never love him... But I do respect and FEAR him. In the words of Machiavelli:  "Better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." Russian President Vladimir Putin at VTB Capital’s annual Russia Calling! investor conference: “We’ve asked Washington to tell us where not to bomb, but they haven’t told us yet.” (Photo by SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin at VTB Capital’s annual Russia Calling! investor conference: “We’ve asked Washington to tell us where not to bomb, but they haven’t told us yet.” (Photo by SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Syria, Putin Says Washington Is Unresponsive

Tell us who not to pound and we won’t pound them, Russian president Vladimir Putin said. He was paraphrasing from a conversation he says his government had recently with Washington about Syria.

Russia is bombing Washington’s friends; an anti-Assad crowd that Putin believes is as bad news as ISIS. His view is not popular in the U.S.. But here in Russia, this is the most popular man
alive. People crowd into a room to hear him. It’s standing room only in fact. Before he comes onto the stage at the Crown Plaza Hotel convention center in Moscow, it’s pin-drop silence. Then, all rise.

This is the most Americans have seen or heard of the Russian military since the 1980s, only this time the Russian in charge is more charismatic. Putin knows how to get his point across.  It’s not charm, necessarily. He’s kissing no one’s behind.  It’s Putin straight talk… believe it or disbelieve it.  Tuesday was Putin’s “charm offensive” to global investors, many of whom traveled to Moscow to hear Putin out. He’s helped push his country into pariah state status, at least through a Western looking glass.

Everyone in attendance, all 700-and-change, and nearly double last year’s Russia Calling! event by VTB Capital, pounded Putin on Syria, Ukraine and the economy. One after the other, it was a veritable carpet bombing of bad news and a with all due respect, sir blame.  It started when Geoff Cutmore, a CNBC Squawk reporter based in Europe, asked him about his military’s role in Syria and its impact on the investment climate in Russia.

You have to see it to believe. Because to watch Putin is, oddly, to kind of respect him, if not admire him. The man is a master. He’s the perfect Western villain, of course.  He is the guy James Bond can’t bring down.

Cutmore shoots. There’s a short moment of silence, as if all the Russians in the room suddenly spotted a UFO. Putin shrugs. It’s a perceptible, here we go again, thing he does with his body. There’s the inevitable nervous laughter from those in attendance. And then the Russian president leans forward and puts Cutmore on the receiving end of a Putin info bomb.

“You’ve mixed apples and oranges together on Syria and investment climate. Although everything is interconnected, there are no direct links here,”  Putin said. While Syria may be a new military mission, Russia’s support of anti-Kyiv rebels in Eastern Ukraine has soured sentiment and slapped sanctions on the Russian economy. Syria, on the other hand, did not factor into the recent six month extension of Russia sanctions by the United States.

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