“All the world’s a stage,” wrote William Shakespeare, meaning the world is a platform from which people reveal the essential nature of their character.
Back then, those revelations, whether defining the moral and practical principles of real-world people, or the staged characteristics of theatrical personalities, had to be absorbed face to face. This tended to minimize the world-scale impact of what real and literary dramas could portray.
Now, we have mass media of instant and pervasive communications, and the performers on those global platforms can reveal not just their personal characteristics, but, if they are designated leaders, the aims, policies and standards of their governments and nations.
Take Syria, for example: a very real-world place, full of desperate and displaced people; ruled (more or less) by a threatened and threatening tyrant, President Bashar al-Assad, a savage and twisted oppressor like Shakespeare’s Richard III. But what takes place on the Syria stage, and what is revealed about who Assad is, matters less than if he can keep the title and powers of a president. All of that matters mostly to his fellow-Syrians.
He and his country are just a bloody, melodramatic subplot to a more significant story arc: the return of Russia from failed state to regional power to full-fledged world superpower.
The transition has come in less than 20 years through a series of transformative military initiatives taken at some risk and despite some domestic doubters in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. From suppressing internal revolt, to strengthening control over Russia’s perimeter, to what you have called a new kind of war for Russia; an expeditionary war fought far from Russia’s borders. In each of these spot-lit situations, the author/hero Vladimir Putin has shown not just great strength, but perhaps even greater consistency in his character.
This epic narrative, says our guest today, Dmitri Trenin, the Director of the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is both the strategic dream and practical accomplishment of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is also, Trenin shows in his recent book, “What is Russia Up to in the Middle East?” still a work in progress.
Dr. Dmitri Trenin is director of the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Previously he has been a Senior Research Fellow at the NATO Defense College and a fellow at the Institute of Europe. Prior to 1993, he had served in the Soviet and Russian armed forces, including participation on the staff for US-Soviet nuclear talks in Geneva and teaching for the war studies department of the Military Institute.