Vladimir Putin’s theory of how to create a stable world is simple enough: Peace comes through maintaining strong states, strong leaders, and stable national institutions. At his address before the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Putin made this point by pointing to the world’s most pressing international crises: the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq and the refugee crisis spreading across Europe.
“Refugees undoubtedly need our compassion and support, but the only way to solve this problem on a fundamental level is to restore the statehood where it has been destroyed, to strengthen the government institutions where they still exist,” Putin said through a translator.
He traced the origins of the Syrian crisis and ISIS to what he sees as the failures of the Arab Spring revolutions. “Rather than bringing back reforms ... it has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself,” he said. “It is now obvious that the power vacuums created in some countries in the Middle East and Africa led to the emergence of anarchy areas, which immediately started to be filled with extremists and terrorists.”
President Obama spoke before Putin at the General Assembly, but his remarks may as well have been a direct response to Putin. “In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse,” Obama said. “Let’s remember how this started: Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife.”