Is Putin More Dangerous Than ISIS?

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Is Putin More Dangerous Than ISIS?
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Although Islamic State militants continue to threaten attacks on Western cities, there is an argument that Russia and President Vladimir Putin are potentially more of a threat to the world as we know it.

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As Alexander J. Motyl writes in World Affairs, Putin likes to make Russia out as a victim of barbarism and a defender of peace. However as we have seen most recently in Ukraine, Moscow has a patchy record when it comes to promoting peaceful conflict resolution.

Putin paints Russia as defender of peace

On December 3 Putin made a speech to the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s national legislature, in which he plugged the same line about the Kremlin’s struggle for peace. “Russia has long since been on the front lines of the struggle against terrorism. It’s a struggle for freedom, truth, and justice. For the lives of people and the future of our civilization,” he said.

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Motyl argues that Russia has promoted terrorism both domestically and in Ukraine, as well as working to restrict freedom, truth and justice. He also accuses Putin of violating international norms of diplomatic behavior.

Putin recently offered to form an anti-ISIS alliance with the West, an idea that is under serious consideration from policymakers from Washington to Berlin. Motyl argues that before Western leaders enter into any such alliance, it would be wise to think about which of the two presents a greater threat to security.

What is the difference between ISIS and Russia?

It seems logical that a coordinated assault on ISIS makes sense for Russia and the West, but an alliance is an entirely different proposition. Such a move assumes that ISIS is more dangerous to Western interests than Russia, which may not be the case.

While ISIS grabs the headlines with its acts of barbarism, there is an argument that Putin’s Russia is far more dangerous. He is a ruthless political operator that has the will, capacity and desire to disrupt the international order on which the West is built.

ISIS beheads its prisoners and destroys ancient cultural sites, but Putin is almost equally barbaric. Putin ordered bombing campaigns against the Chechen capital of Grozny, which he hoped would exterminate separatists. Instead the city was razed to the ground, and Russian soldiers butchered thousands of civilians.

Rogue state more dangerous than revolutionary movement

Investigations into the bombing of three Russian apartment complexes in 1999 revealed that the Russian secret police may have orchestrated the explosions. Putin was head of the service at the time. More recently there have been around 8,000 deaths during the conflict in Ukraine, and Russian-backed rebels have been executing prisoners of war.

ISIS may have destroyed a Russian passenger jet, but Russia still denies any complicity in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014. The disregard for civilian casualties is a disturbing trend that emerges from Putin’s actions, and it has appeared once more during the bombing campaign in Syria.

Barbarism is certainly shocking, but the main issue here is that Russia under Putin has become a rogue state that threatens international peace. Most worryingly Russia possesses a huge army and nuclear arsenal, making it a more dangerous rogue state than others that have come before it.

In contrast ISIS is not a state in anything but name. It has no functioning institutions and is still working towards constructing a state, with a mixed record of administering its population. The revolutionary movement may have trouble maintaining control over the territory it has seized, and could become a terror movement that carries out attacks around the world.

Russia has the ability to destroy international order

However daunting that prospect, it is not a threat to world peace. Killing innocent civilians is an affront to our civilization, but it does not undermine the international order. Russia is a more dangerous foe that violates treaties and borders, rejects international norms and considers war to be a legitimate means of achieving its ends.

In the past few years Putin’s Russia has revised the borders of both Georgia and Ukraine using military assets, and that could be just the beginning. Putin has repeatedly spoken of the right to use force to pursue geopolitical goals.

At best Russia may become a short-term partner of the West against ISIS, but Putin’s opposition to the international order runs deep and will prevent Russia becoming an ally. ISIS and Russia hate the West, but only the latter could destroy it.

Cooperation against ISIS is an attractive proposition, but Western leaders should not be distracted from the bigger picture. Support for Ukraine must continue, sanctions must be upheld, and NATO must be kept strong.

Updated on

While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. <i>To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at theflask@gmail.com</i>
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17 COMMENTS

  1. Oh wow.

    You know, there was a very, very interesting interview with an ex-chief editor of one of the leading German newspapers and he came out and explained how CIA gets in bed with newspapers and demand that they write pro-american articles, anti-[insert country name here] articles and even write some of them them selves as exchange for “favors”. I am not saying this is one of them, but it is INCREDIBLY skewed and biased. Then again, it is an opinion. There are just so many doors open in this article that I do not even know which one to go into…..

    -“Cooperation against ISIS is an attractive proposition, but Western leaders should not be distracted from the bigger picture. Support for Ukraine must continue, sanctions must be upheld, and NATO must be kept strong.”

    This right here, sums up the whole article. When France, Germany, Russia, Belarus were pushing for peace in Ukraine, people like Mr. Byrne here, was pushing for arming Ukraine and more fighting. This article should be posted in either Euromaidan press, or Kyev Post, they will gobble it up and you will be their god, Mr. Byrne.

  2. Cant help your mental case.There is more then one politician in EU who thinks that Russia strategy of EU is completely wrong I just mention Mr.Seehofer from Germany so dont believe your own nonsense.I wish EU countries would have such
    a low debt as Russia.So there is no collapse of Russia anywhere near and it is not a question of Putin as I dont care about Putin and if he is not in power any longer
    If you really care about Ukraine just look into the parliament in Kiev and what clowns are working in there they are even fighting with each other and nobody is impressive by there conduct.They are just a disgrace

  3. From what I know, Russia’s reserve funds which are now used to cover budget shortages will be finished in half a year. Predictions of oil prices are that they will fall even further. So… In half a year they have to make descisions. Fire people, lower pensions etc. And prices are rising. It’s just a matter of time. A hungry population will be the end. It just takes some time.
    And you are a troll, without any doubts. Nobody who doesn’t get paid will defend the crimes of Russia.

  4. What I want it really doesn’t matter as I am not as ignorant as you.
    First Russia is not anywhere close to collapse the situation is even better in parts
    if you compare it to Ukraine but of course such low oil price is not helpful to any
    oil producer.Also Scotland is suffering now And sorry to disappoint you I am not getting anything paid from Russia as I already pointed out I live and work in the UK

  5. Mr. Byrne sure hit the mark in this article. you know he is spot on when you see all the trolls massing for the attack. Mr. Byrne keep up the good work, it is fun seeing the trolls spinning and weaving to try and post new and old lies to make their god, Putin, seem a like a human.

  6. I understand that it will be very hard for you to see Ukraine succeed. Russia is going down. Economically it is on the edge of collapse. They predict that in half a year the economy of Nazi Russia will be smaller than our economy in Holland. While Russia is 400 times bigger. It’s a failed state, and it is getting worse each day. Soon they will have no money anymore to pay you for posting nonsense here.

  7. You are pretty much talking nonsense.
    I am in the UK so lets just hope that something can be done to prevent
    Ukraine from joining EU.Greece is already enough of a drama

  8. Good comedy, especially Russian Secret police blowing up apartment blocks..Thats like saying Bush blew up the twin towers. Or do you believe that as well?

  9. I looked at election results. Last elections clearly showed that Ukraine wants nothing anymore with Russia. People are sick of your employer.

  10. It is nice that we have a Russian troll here to tell us this nonsense. Russia is guilty of warcrimes, terrorism and etnic cleansing. They are responsible for most problems in Europe. They started WW2 together with Nazi Germany. They shot down MH17, they are resposible for over 8000 deaths in eastern Ukraine etc. I think, if you look at number of deaths than Russia is the main problem in the world.

  11. Brendam Byrne, you must be sick.Almost all your sentences are lies. Take one at random “Barbarism is certainly shocking, but the main issue here is that Russia
    under Putin has become a rogue state that threatens international peace.”. No joke? Who attacked and destroyed Iraq and Lybia? Putin. Who created ISIS? Putin. Who did the february putsch in Ukraine? Putin. Go to a mad house.

  12. You say Russia is a threat than ISIS; a threat to who? To avoid a nuclear holocaust upon the world the US and NATO should tone down their manhandling of Russia. NATO’s continued encroaching upon the borders of Russia does not augur well for peace on earth and survival of mankind. Please bear in mind that Russia, just as the US, is singlehandedly capable of unhilating the planet using their nuke stockpiles. So why provoke them for no reason?

  13. The Ukraine crisis began with the U.S. investing 5 billion $’s in Ukraine after1990 to gain a foothold. Then Nuland moved in and selected “Yats” as Ukraine’s prime minister. The U.S. selects who will be the prime minister of a country of 50,000,000 . Isn’t that nice. The Kiev government are the ones doing the shelling and killing. Get you facts together before you publish.

  14. “in Ukraine, Moscow has a patchy record when it comes to promoting peaceful conflict resolution”???
    What “conflict resolution”?
    There was no conflict until Moscow invaded Ukraine, annexed its territory and waged a WAR in mainland Ukraine, causing over 10,000 dead and close to 2 Million displaced.

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