Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion turned political activist, has written a must read article in The Spectator on why Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is winning the poker game of international politics:
Although — as I will explain — his winning streak may not last, at least for the time being he has outplayed all his opponents, largely because President Obama and other western leaders have left the game wide open for him. Putin is now so confident that he is busy drawing up plans for a new ‘post-Assad’ Syria. He is sure he can retain his influence, whoever is in charge.
The West’s inadequate and vacillating response to the Syria crisis has made some people draw parallels with Munich in 1938 — and for once the comparison actually rings true. Even while Cameron and Hollande have been desperately trying not to look like Chamberlain and Daladier, they looked exactly like them. Meanwhile President Obama showed he could not keep his own promises. The consequences of his failure to enforce his own ‘red line’ on the use of chemical weapons will come back to haunt him long after this current impasse is over.
But it wasn’t just that Putin played his hand well. Both Obama and Cameron played a genuinely inept game. The Conservative party was disorganised and Obama’s argument about legal technicalities proved unconvincing. If you want people to authorise and approve of military action, you have to sound both convincing and capable. Persuading the American public to intervene in Europe in the 1940s was a tough sell for FDR. But he succeeded in selling it, winning the election and winning the vote in the House. That was leadership.
But the disaster of President Obama’s presidency is not just his lack of leadership but the fact that he shows such weakness. It is not only Putin who is watching and taking note of this. There are other players in this new Great Game waiting in the wings — the Iranians in particular, who will arrange their nuclear progress in accordance with the weakness they see.