'Chess Is the Way We Establish Mastery Over the West'

This statement, uttered by a Soviet General during the Cold War, used to leave me rather bemused, as I contemplated the antithetical image of a bumbling Nikita Khrushchev overextending himself as he put missiles into faraway Cuba, then had to back off, even losing the public relations contest as he agreed not to publish the fact that the U.S. was to pull out its Jupiter missiles from Turkey in return for the Soviet missiles leaving Cuba.

Now we have someone who seems to fulfill the dictum of the Soviet General during the Cold War. His name is Vladimir Putin. With exquisite timing, just before his speech at the United Nations, Putin announced on 27 September that he had put together a consortium of intelligence-sharing powers on the Syrian situation: Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Syria? The government that violently suppressed a peaceful protest movement, resulting in a civil war that has caused more than 200,000 casualties, that has produced eight million internal and four million external refugees, that has gassed its own people and barrel-bombed its own people, is now being drawn in as a partner in the campaign against the Islamic State, or ISIS.

We cannot accept this Russian initiative, regardless of the outcome of the present war in Syria. No matter how long it takes, we cannot agree to the presence of Bashar al Assad in a permanent Syrian Government. Putin's Russia, with the lack of humanitarian sensibility which is a hallmark of its policy, can accept such a solution, but the West cannot.