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If Assad gets jettisoned, Putin will have to watch other secular Muslim dictatorships
Kissinger Quote: Russia's Dilemmas To The South
by Henry Kissinger
In a 03-Feb-12 interview, former Secretary of State Henry Kissing describes external geopolitical pressures as perceived from Putin’s vantage point.
Kissinger Quote: Russia\'s Dilemmas To The South

Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin.

Putin is acutely conscious of a dilemma Russia has; and he has been trying to solve it in his own way. The dilemma is this: Russia was a vast empire. It was one of the dominant countries in the world during the Soviet period. As a result of the 1990 collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the satellite orbit in Eastern Europe, Russia returned to being a back-territory vis-à-vis Europe at the borders from which it started 300 years ago.

In addition to that, Russia faces two new situations. In Asia, it shares a 3,000-mile border with China. In the six provinces on the Chinese side, there are 100 million people. In the provinces on the Russian side of that same border, there are merely 5 million people. In all of Siberia there are 30 million Russian citizens. Right beneath that, in China, you have 1.5 billion people.

So you have this disproportion in demography. In order to industrialize Siberia, Moscow encounters great trouble getting Russians to move to Siberia. If the world were truly globalized, one would permit Asian immigrants into that resources-rich region. But the Russians are afraid the Chinese immigrants would never leave (much of this territory was taken from China to begin with). So Putin has this Chinese border, which is a strategic nightmare in terms of under-industrialization.

Separately from that, the Russians have the Islamic border: another 2,000 miles. That Central Asia border is an ideological nightmare. They have over 20 million Muslims on their own side of the border. And they have the Muslim world in turmoil and with rather fundamentalist trends (and other trends also).

Now, on the West, they have a border which is a historical nightmare [Germany alone virtually destroyed Russia twice in the past century].

Because of all this, what Putin has been trying to do is to conduct a very assertive foreign policy to put Russia on the map again. Like Peter the Great, if you will. So some of his apparent posturing is his attempt to give Russia an identity. But he has this strategic dilemma: is Russia strong enough to play that role on all those borders at once?

They look at the democratic, populist movement called the Arab Spring, and they think: We Russians have trouble enough with Muslim populists and independentists in provinces such as Chechnya [(and also in Moscow’s resources-rich satellites such as the brutal dictatorships of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan].

The Kremlin therefore looks at Syria’s current civil war from a very specific point of view. What impact will this have on our own provinces in Central Asia? What will our own Russian Muslims demand as a result of all these democratic, populist movements? Putin is afraid that a breakdown of Assad’s repressive regime will lead to yet another demonstration that Russia can’t play the strong role in international affairs to which he thinks it is entitled.” New York, 03-Feb-12.

~ Henry Kissinger