Instant Opinion

‘The West can learn lessons about Putin from Syria’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon at The Guardian

The West stood back and watched in Syria – it must not do the same in Ukraine

on learning lessons

The Syria crisis “holds key lessons for the West about Putin”, says Hamish de Bretton-Gordon at The Guardian, “yet it has gone virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world”. The chemical weapon expert says that today, Syria “is a Russian state in all but name”, and Bashar al-Assad is “a puppet dictator with strings very clearly tugged from Moscow”. The country “now represents a major Russian and Iranian presence on the edge of Europe; and if Ukraine also falls, the balance of power will very much shift eastwards”. De Bretton-Gordon says that “with too many European countries reliant on Russian gas, the current global instability began in Damascus”. Syria “shows what happens when you turn a blind eye and are too heavily influenced by peaceniks”. Syrians “have shown resilience and innovation beyond compare”, but leaders “will do well” to “be strong and resilient to protect Ukraine”. This writer does not think “that a few sanctions on a few banks and billionaires is going to perturb Putin”. 

2

Michael Fallon at The Telegraph

No, Vladimir Putin isn’t triumphing over the West

on defence and deterrence 

Vladimir Putin has “invaded another country again. He has Europe’s gas bills in his hands. Former US president Donald Trump thinks he’s a genius. A serious British commentator describes the Kremlin’s strategy as ‘brilliantly disguised’”, says Michael Fallon at The Telegraph. “But it’s a little too easy to conclude that the allies have been outplayed.”  The former British defence secretary advises looking “more closely at the West’s response”. There have been “a series of impressive further commitments to the Nato alliance”, which “today is in fact stronger, not weaker”. Under Sir Stuart Peach’s leadership, the alliance has “modernised its military strategy and refocused on deterrence and defence”, says Fallon. “And let’s not forget what really worries Putin – that Nato might expand” – and that it is, he continues. Yes, “there is much more to be done” by the West, but “we should not make the mistake of underestimating our own strength”. 

3

Gail Collins at The New York Times

Guess who’s back on the line

on newsletter notifications

It’s “hard to avoid thinking about Donald Trump when he’s calling Vladimir Putin’s current behaviour ‘genius’”, says Gail Collins. Writing at The New York Times, she concedes that “to be honest, ignoring him is almost always pretty difficult”. Collins has received “at least 230 emails” from Trump this month asking for money. It’s been a “tough time” for the former president. “Lost the election. Big disaster on Jan. 6. Reports of ripped-up paper in the White House toilet. Even Mike Pence has ditched him.” But “his political career is absolutely on track”, and his fundraising attempts have seen cash come “pouring in”. “Trump’s very, very cheerful email fund-raising appears to be so wildly successful” that “other Republicans are muttering that they’re being crowded out of the action”. It’s “hard to imagine they can elbow in”. Wait, says Collins: “here comes another email”.

4

Osman Faruqi at The Sydney Morning Herald

Our frontline workers kept us safe. It’s time we rewarded them

on striking services

“It’s hard to think of a cohort of workers who have done more, under extreme and unprecedented conditions, to keep us safe over the past two years than our frontline public sector workers,” says Osman Faruqi at The Sydney Morning Herald. During the pandemic, “we clapped and cheered for these workers, we thanked them, and politicians sang their praises”. But now, they “are under assault from the same governments that relied on them to prevent total disaster”. This week it’s been train workers on strike “over pay, safety conditions and proposed privatisations”, and before that it was nurses who were “forced to strike to squeeze out a better pay deal”, says Faruqi. “Public sector wage caps are poor policy at the best of times”, but following a pandemic, “they are brutal”. Australia’s “nurses, teachers, and other frontline workers have deserved better for years”, and now, “there’s no excuse.”

5

Sarah Sands at the i news site

The loss of big names like Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel shows journalists are no longer defined by the BBC

on attracting talent

“What tempted the premier league” journalists Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel to leave the BBC for careers at Global, was an offer “tailored to them, plus global reach, probably loads of money and less fuss about their terms and conditions”, says Sarah Sands at the i news site. When the former Today programme editor was at the BBC, Sands says “there was a stern distinction between the hair shirt of news compared to the agents-and-I-will-say-what-I-like-on-Twitter world of entertainment and sport”. Now, “the changing market and appetite for news-based content […] means that news executives are going to have to start asking themselves whether journalists are happy”. Up until recently, “journalists were defined by working for the BBC. Now those with big enough profiles can make their fortunes nicely outside it”. The “wrong conclusion” for the BBC to reach from this would be “a round of inflationary salary rises and promises” that would be “disastrous” for the broadcaster. The BBC “remains a benign and mighty institution” but “it must recognise that it is now part of a media eco system”.

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