Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 7 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/27/13

URI Professor meets with Vladimir Putin, other world leaders

By       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   No comments, 3 series
Author 6199
Message Nicolai Petro
Become a Fan
  (1 fan)
Some observers say Russia's stature on the world stage was elevated during the tense standoff over Syrian President's Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons to kill his own people. What do you think?

First of all, I think that while there is now no debate that chemical weapons (sarin) were used, there is still no international consensus on whether they were used by elements of the Syrian regime, elements of the Syrian opposition, or both. Previous U.N. findings have leaned toward the latter, but there has been no finding with respect to this latest incident, and intelligence professionals in many Western governments are divided on the matter, as are most journalists from the region.

Russia's stature has been elevated simply because it was able to prevent a further, unpredictable escalation of the conflict. (In earlier remarks to us, Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, memorably referred to "this crazy, crazy, crazy world" we all now live in.)
Jesus' injunction -- "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9) -- seems to have struck a chord with Russia's political leaders and Putin in particular, and their efforts seem to be much appreciated around the globe.

Did Putin talk about the Syrian crisis during the conference?

Yes, he did, though the previous day we also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who brought us up to speed about the latest developments in his negotiation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

If I were to summarize the gist of both Lavrov's and Putin's remarks, it is to remind us all that we are only at the beginning of a long process, and that if we want that process to succeed, all sides will have to make a good-faith effort to bring the warring parties to the table. Russia has succeeded in doing so with the Syrian government, and the United States now has to apply itself equally in bringing the Syrian opposition under control, especially if they too possess chemical weapons.

Is America's role as a super power diminishing?

That question came up often at the conference, but oddly not from the Russian participants. I would say that it was voiced mainly by the Chinese participants, who included several leading academics and journalists. But while the Chinese and some other Asian participants saw China's power as rising, they also expressed uncertainty about how it should best be used. As one participant put it, the United States has relinquished its global dominance to China quite suddenly, and China is not entirely sure what to do with its newly found status.

Putin, for his part, in his question-and-answer session, took pains to point out that the United States remains the world's leading power. This, he said, places a special responsibility on it to act responsibly, and solely within the context of established international law.

Russia seems to be a country in flux, politically and culturally. Do you see any big political or cultural movements ahead that would bring a colossal change in the government?

Actually, I see Russia as politically and economically more stable than ever. As a result, there is now an opportunity to move beyond daily survival and to look to its cultural underpinnings, to address the generational divide, that remains quite visible, between those who are nostalgic about the security and sense of purpose that they all shared in Soviet times, and those who have never had that, and are now searching for a post-Soviet common identity.

I do not anticipate any tremendous changes, though I would expect that, if the prospective Eurasian Union initiative linking Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan were to flourish, it could become a powerful integrative force in the heartland of Eurasia.

The Russian government mistreats gays and lesbians. How strong is the protest movement to stop government crackdowns?

This is not quite correct. During his question-and-answer session Putin addressed a question from the audience regarding the rights of homosexuals and pointed out that, unlike many other countries (and about half of American states until 2003), since 1993 in Russia homosexuality is not illegal, homosexual acts are not illegal, and homosexuals cannot legally be discriminated against.

The legislation that was passed recently by the Russian parliament is quite specific. It prohibits the advertisement (in Russian "propaganda") of a homosexual lifestyle among minors. In other words, as I understand it, it applies first and foremost to schools and other places where underage children would be the objects of such efforts. That is all.

Having said that, it is also clear that Russian society is notably less liberal on public displays of sexuality than some other Western societies, on a par I would say with the more socially conservative regions of the United States or southern Europe.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).


Rate It | View Ratings

Nicolai Petro Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He has served as special assistant for policy in the U.S. State Department and as civic affairs advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. His books include: The Rebirth of Russian Democracy (Harvard,1995), Russian Foreign Policy (Longman, 1997), and (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Russia Can't Be Manipulated Through External Pressure

Ukraine: Why Culture Matters

How Accurate is Freedom House?

How the E.U. Can Bring Ukraine Into Europe

Some Orthodox Reflections on the (P)ussy (R)iot Case

The Other Ukraine

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: