There’s an odd infatuation in this country with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While I look at him as an insecure leader who’s trying desperately to seem powerful and macho, there are those who see his desperate tactics as signs that he’s a strong leader, even if they claim to disagree with what he does.
You’ve heard this sort of rhetoric for years from Republicans. To hear many members of the GOP talk, they actually show more respect toward Putin and his “leadership” than they do our own president. Then again, as I’ve argued before, in many ways Putin would make a great Republican by their own standards.
But I see the Russian president as a reactionary individual who’s desperately trying to put on a facade that he’s strong and powerful, mostly to coverup the fact that his nation’s economy is crumbling thanks to his poor leadership.
Judging from his comments during an interview on “60 Minutes,” President Obama agrees with me on this. The president schooled Steve Kroft on what real leadership looks like:
Kroft: You said a year ago the United States, America leads. We’re the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
Obama: In what way? Let’s think about this.
Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II, bombing the people that we are supporting.
Obama: So that’s ‘leading,’ Steve?” Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region and today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria which they’ve had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally.
Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President.
Obama: Steve, I’ve got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.
President Obama is exactly right. Aggravating Obama probably plays a part in Putin’s decision to order military strikes in Syria, but the bottom line remains that Putin is desperate to keep one of his few remaining allies, Bashar al-Assad, in power. His actions aren’t those of a leader who’s trying to take charge of a situation, they’re a reaction to the realization that with every day that passes, Assad moves closer to losing power in Syria. This is not real leadership coming from Putin, this is desperation.
The truth of the matter is, while President Obama plays chess – people like Vladimir Putin are playing checkers.
Watch the interview below via CBS News: