American foreign policy pundits and their echo chamber in the press scoffed at Russia’s intervention in Syria: it would be a quagmire. When Russia brought home most of its planes after a successful campaign against ISIS, Americans pretended to be ‘surprised’. ‘Putin is bad’ was replaced by ‘You never know what this guy is going to do next’.
These comments follow logically from the virtual news blackout on the uninterrupted flow of academics, businessmen and politicians to Russia during the last few years. St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin’s home town, vies with Moscow as a major international conference and event hub, but you have to watch Russia’s international channel RT, to learn about these goings-on. France’s international channel, France 24, which usually reports on the same events as its Russian counterpart, is silent on Russia’s international confabs.
Most recently, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was in Moscow signing all sorts of deals. He and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov announced the resumption of the Petersburg Dialogue, a forum that gathers representatives of Russian and German civil societies first launched more than 15 years ago. The two ministers also signed a joint commitment to back a cross-cultural youth exchange year spanning 2016-2017. At the same times, the German diplomat agreed to reactivate the Interagency High Level Working Group on Strategic Cooperation in the field of economics and finance.
And now comes Palmyra, recaptured from ISIS by Assad’s Syrian Army with Russian and Iranian help. Russia announced that its de-mining experts would be arriving in the world heritage ancient city to clear it of ISIS boobytraps. France 24 reported on everything about Palmyra except the Russian offer.
The world is used to seeing American prowess, but it is mostly unaware that Russia is fast becoming ‘the indispensable nation’. This is partly due to the fact that the US mostly makes headlines by killing people, and in journalism, there is rule known as the ‘death/miles’ ratio: if they’re far enough away, dead people, even in the thousands, don’t make the headlines.
Although Europe’s Americanized press can’t hide the fact that in the run-up to the US Presidential election the Republican Party is going from ‘shock and awe’ to a sideshow, its readers also believe it when it obediently claims that Russia has imperial designs, even though there is not a shred of evidence to back up that story.