The West is in middle of leadership vacuum Putin is exploiting — Anne Applebaum
23 October, 2015

What You Need To Know:

✓ Russia's new tactics of media control are much more sophisticated than Soviet era techniques;
✓ Russian media switched tracks from Ukraine to Syria so Putin could divert attention from his failure in Ukraine;
✓ Putin’s main foreign policy goal is to divide Europe, divide NATO;
✓ There’s a power vacuum in Western leadership.

Anne Applebaum, a pulitzer prize winning author, believes that the way Putin manipulates the media now is both new and old. "There isn’t one Pravda, or one television channel, but now you have a dozen of them. They sound different and argue with each other sometimes, but 95% of them stay on the same narrative."

She sees this in the way Russian media has reported in the wake of Russia's miltiary intervention in Syria. "Now that Putin’s gone into Syria, there’s been a shift from the story of Ukraine, and you’re seeing all the Russian media talk about the deterioration of the West."

Applebaum feels that the a large reason why the Russians are currently fighting in Syria. "The Ukraine was was losing traction, and Putin wasn’t winning in Ukraine, at least not in the way he wanted to win, and now he’s changed the subject so the only thing on Russian television is Syria." In her opinion though, the war might not be over. "The frozen conflict can be revived at any time, depending on what Moscow wants. It’s not an accident that the fighting just stopped as the Russians went to Syria."

Applebaum also believes that the scale of Putin's ambitions are worrisome. "Putin’s main foreign policy goal is to divide Europe, divide NATO and it’s an ambitious goal, but I think that’s what he wants. He eventually wants the Americans to leave Europe."

Finally, she sees a problematic lack of leadership from the West in how to deal with Russia. "There is no real strategy from the West towards Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine. In American politics, there are pieces of strategy coming together but it’s a bad moment in the political cycle. Nothing will happen now because Obama will be out of office soon, and won’t make any dramatic moves. He’s a lame duck president, and has been for quite some time."

She adds that she sees France's President Francois Hollande "as the weakest President in French history because he's unable to make any clear decisions," and Britain as fully "inward looking, divided and obsessed with its own problems with no willingness for global issues."

In her estimation, that leaves Germany, but she doesn't believe in Germany's ability to lead. "Germany is a country which is unequipped to be a leader, it hasn’t been one since WW2. Since then, it’s taken its cues from France, Britain, the USA and NATO. Economically, Germany is a leader, but in terms of Foreign Policy, Germany doesn’t think of itself as a leader. There’s a power vacuum in Western leadership."

Hromadske International's Ian Bateson and Nataliya Gumenyuk interviewed Anne Applebaum in Kyiv on October 18th 2015.